AllTrials audit finds most top public funders lack research transparency policies

Most of the top noncommercial funders of clinical trials, including international charities and governments, have no policies that mandate the eventual reporting of study results, according to an audit by the research transparency watchdog Alltrials.

Of the top 18 philanthropic and public funders of clinical research, accounting for over $40 billion in annual spending, just eight required that summaries of results be posted, and only half asked that studies be registered in the first place.

Published in JAMA, analysts from the University of Oxford’s Evidence-Based Medicine Datalab examined funders’ transparency policies across trial registration, results reporting and the sharing of patient data. Their follow-through performance was not measured.

Three were found to be lacking in all three areas, while only two funders had all the bases covered: the UK’s Medical Research Council and the German Research Foundation.

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“These results are concerning,” said paper co-author Dr. Ben Goldacre, co-founder of AllTrials. “Public funders have fallen well behind and are now doing worse on transparency than the pharmaceutical industry.”

Last year, an AllTrials transparency audit of the world’s 42 largest pharmaceutical companies found over 90% had committed to both registering trials and reporting summaries of the results.

“We need these funders to show leadership, to tell their grant recipients very clearly that all trials must be registered and reported, and their data shared,” Goldacre said. Sixteen of the total were government or public bodies, while two, The Wellcome Trust and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were philanthropic.

In May 2017, the World Health Organization asked noncommercial funders to sign on to its standards for the public disclosure of clinical trial results, but only a third of the entities in the audit had committed to implementing them.