The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) has admitted that it fails to track whether the over 200 clinical trials it has sponsored have posted results.
In a response to a Freedom of Information request filed by TranspariMED, the university stated that it does not know how many trials it has sponsored in the past, how many of those have failed to post results onto trial registries, and how many have failed to publish results in the academic literature.
Worldwide, around half of clinical trials never report results, contributing to the estimated $85 billion in medical research funds that are wasted worldwide every year due to non-publication of research results. Typically, universities perform far worse than industry at reporting trial results. According to the Declaration of Helsinki, failure to share trial results is unethical.
The world’s largest trial registry, Clinicaltrials.gov, lists 186 clinical trials sponsored by LSHTM. The EU registry lists nine trials. A third registry, ISRCTN, lists 51 trials sponsored by the university.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that around half of the 22 UK universities that make up the Russell Group have already assumed central control over their registry entries to get a clearer picture of the problem, an indispensable first step towards tackling their backlogs of unreported trials and getting the results out there.
Aberdeen and Bristol universities have already begun uploading missing results, as this blog has previously reported. Many top universities in the United States started doing so several years ago.
LSHTM's failure to track the trials it is responsible for raises the question to what extent its medical research, much of which is publicly funded, actually benefits the public.
Commenting on LSHTM’s failure to track its own trials, Norman Lamb MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology, sent a clear message:
Update 17 August 2018:
The university has now responded to the question of who is responsible for ensuring that trial results get posted on registries and published in academic journals. The university's Research Governance Office claims that it "does not have the capacity to follow this up with each PI."
In 2016-2017, the university had a budget of over £170 million...
Does your university track which of its clinical trials publish results?
If you want to find out, simply submit a Freedom of Information request via this easy-to-use online platform, copying and pasting in the following text:
1. How many of the clinical trials sponsored by the university that have been registered on WHO-approved primary registries have a primary completion date that is more than 12 months in the past? Please provide a list of all trials, including their corresponding registry trial number(s).
Please note that this information is NOT publicly available via trial registries as the university does not consistently maintain registry entries, as documented by a 2017 TranspariMED study:
Therefore, this question cannot be answered from publicly available sources.
2. How many of the trials identified in response to question (1) have not posted summary results on the registry/registries where they are registered? Please list these trials with their corresponding registry trial number(s).
3. How many of the trials identified in response to question (1) have not published their outcomes in academic journals? Please list these trials with their corresponding registry trial number(s).
4. Please indicate by what date the university plans to have posted the summary results for all trials identified in response to question (1) onto all registries where they have been registered.
5. Who within the university is responsible for ensuring that clinical trial results (a) get posted on registries, and (b) get published academically?
Filing the request should only take five minutes. Please do share your university’s reply with TranspariMED.