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Clinical trials run by NHS Trusts: £250 million at risk of becoming research waste

The results of around 500 clinical trials run by NHS Trusts remain unreported, an analysis of registry data combined with responses to Freedom of Information Requests indicates.

In total, medical discoveries that cost NHS Trusts and their funders over £250 million to generate may be at risk of becoming research waste.

Medical research whose findings remain invisible fails to benefit patients and makes no contribution to medical progress, and thus is a waste of resources. Nevertheless, around half of all clinical trials conducted worldwide never publish their results.

While the problem of research waste in medicine is exhaustively documented in the literature, the UK currently does not have a national monitoring system in place to check whether clinical trials conducted in the country subsequently make their results public.

In 2018, the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons proposed that the Health Research Authority put such a system in place. The cost of such a system was initially estimated at £2.4 million per annum, but the actual price tag for a basic audit is likely to be far lower.

TranspariMED's new report underlines the cost-effectiveness of the national clinical trial monitoring system proposed by UK parliament in 2018.

NHS Trusts' responses to Freedom of Information also revealed that Trusts differ strongly in the extent to which they have oversight over their trial portfolios, and as to whether they consider funding data to be commercially confidential. 5 out of 14 Trusts contacted refused to provide some or all funding data.

To access the full report, please click below:

The figures cited in the report are not precise, as they are based on limited data combined with (conservative) extrapolations. Data collection was finalised in May 2019 and thus does not take into account recent and ongoing improvements in reporting performance by some NHS Trusts.

TranspariMED would like to thank Debra Winberg for generously volunteering her time and expertise to collect and analyse the data. TranspariMED encourages other researchers to build on the methodology used here to generate estimates of the amount of research waste generated by clinical trial non-reporting in other cohorts.

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