CPA ‘extremely concerned’ over lack of transparency

The Committee of Public Accounts calls for all drug data to be available after raising ‘extreme concerns’ over accessibility.

Following a recent report into clinical trial data, the Committee of Public Accounts (CPA) has criticised the current system of publication and called for all data on all drugs and treatments currently available to patients to be released.

“The full results of clinical trials are being routinely and legally withheld from doctors and researchers by the manufacturers of medicine,” said Richard Bacon, committee member at the CPA. “This has ramifications for the whole of medicine.”

Based on their findings, the CPA concluded that the probability of trial data being published was 50%, with favourable trial data twice as likely to be published than unfavourable data: an area of “extreme concern” said Bacon.

The CPA also criticised the industry’s recent efforts to increase access as failing to work retrospectively, demanding all data on all treatments and drugs currently in use to be made available.     

Dr Ben Goldacre, who submitted evidence to the CPA for the recent report, said the situation was “frankly ridiculous” and warned that “patients aren’t getting the best treatment for them.”

“We have no way of knowing what the best antidepressant is and that is doing harm,” said Dr Goldacre.

In response, the ABPI maintained its position as a “strong advocacy of transparency” and said it was “misleading to suggest that the pharmaceutical industry routinely withholds clinical trial data from doctors and researchers.”

“However, we recognise that there is still work to be done and we are continuing on a journey to achieving greater clinical trial transparency,” the ABPI said.  

The CPA report also questioned the practice of stockpiling Tamiflu as an immunisation for influenza despite “limited evidence and widespread disagreement among regulators” over its effectiveness.

“We are disturbed by claims that regulators do not have access to all the available information,” said Bacon, calling on the Department of Health to review “what level of coverage is appropriate” before any further spending on the flu vaccine.