Since 2008, most research labs have been legally required to publish the results of their clinical trials to a federal database at ClinicalTrials.gov — but according to a new investigation by Stat News, that just isn't happening. The investigation found that top labs at Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and University of California–San Diego have been flouting the rules, submitting 95 percent of results either after the one-year deadline or not at all. The net result is skewed data on some of the most widely taken drugs in the country.
Drug companies and other organizations have long opposed disclosure requirements as anti-competitive, but by delivering results so consistently late, labs are exposing themselves to serious fines from the National Institutes of Health. So far, the NIH has declined to enforce those fines, giving researchers free rein to ignore the disclosure requirements.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization called for more aggressive enforcement of the rule, presenting full disclosure as an easy and cheap way to address many of the problems facing modern medicine. "We cannot make truly informed decisions when vitally important information on the methods and results of clinical trials is routinely withheld," science advocate Ben Goldacre wrote at the time, "and yet we have tolerated this simple, fixable, pervasive flaw in evidence-based medicine for many decades."