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Top medical universities in the UK routinely fail to post clinical trial results, TranspariMED study

The top 16 medical universities in the UK have only posted results for 5.8% of their clinical trials, a study released today by TranspariMED shows. Out of a total of 3,540 trials conducted, only 206 have posted results. The results of the remaining 3,334 trials are difficult or impossible to find. Failure to register and report clinical trials harms patients, wastes NHS resources, and slows down the development of new treatments and cures.

TranspariMED’s study illustrates how universities’ failure to post the results of their trials and other weak data management practices have contributed to turning registry entries on clinical trials conducted in the UK into a tangled patchwork of partial, inconsistent and potentially unreliable data. Many universities seem to have an incomplete understanding of the relevant legal, regulatory and ethical frameworks.

On the positive side, at least three British universities have already taken steps towards excellence in reporting the results of their medical research. The University of Aberdeen is set to become the world’s first university to carry out an audit of its existing registry entries. The University of Dundee is actively strengthening its data management systems and has already begun uploading missing trial results onto registries, and the University of Bristol has centralised control over its account.

At the same time, universities’ operating context is rapidly evolving. Recently, over a dozen major global medical research funders, including three funders in the UK, declared that they will soon require their grantees to pre-register all trials, post their results on registries within 12 months, and ensure that registry entries are complete, accurate, and kept up to date.

Noting that the cost of continued inaction by far outweighs the cost of resolving the problem, the study offers the following recommendations:

The UK government should:

  1. Assume political leadership and commit to solving the problem

  2. Launch a national strategy to secure the results from past clinical trials

  3. Launch a national audit system for future clinical trials

UK universities should:

  1. Centralize oversight of all existing registry entries

  2. Audit their clinical trial registration and reporting performance

  3. Adopt strong policies

  4. Post full trial reports online

Till Bruckner, founder of TranspariMED, said:

“Failure to register and report clinical trials harms patients, wastes NHS resources, and slows down the development of new treatments and cures. Sharing trial results is not an optional extra, it is a moral, scientific and legal responsibility. Excellence in communicating research findings is an integral part of overall research excellence. British universities urgently need to step up their game and ensure that their staff members register and fully report every single trail they participate in. At the same time, the government must assume political leadership, enforce existing regulations, and take action to solve this ongoing public health crisis once and for all.”

According to Times Higher Education, an Imperial College London spokeswoman said that the institution “will in future be advising its researchers that, in addition to registering trials before patients are enrolled, they should publish results in the registry once the trial has concluded”.

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