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New project: How many UK clinical trials remain completely unreported?

A new project seeks to quantify research waste in the UK by checking whether 1,000 clinical trials have made their results public.

The project will examine interventional trials completed before 2016 that were run by twenty universities and NHS Trusts. It will focus on trials of medical devices and non-drug interventions, using manual searches to check whether they have made their outcomes public on trial registries or in academic journals.

In addition, the project will file two waves of Freedom of Information requests with universities and NHS Trusts. The first wave will establish whether institutions themselves have an accurate picture of unreported trials in their portfolios. The second will be used to verify the accuracy of data on unpublished trials.

An estimated $85 billion in medical research funding is being wasted worldwide every year as trials that cost millions to run fail to contribute to medical progress because their results are not reported.

Previous research by TranspariMED indicates that around 500 clinical trials costing over £250 million that were run by NHS Trusts remain unreported.

A similar study by researchers at the BiH QUEST Center in Berlin showed that German universities had failed to make public the results of 433 out of 1,509 clinical trials. Those trials, which aimed to recruit 56,730 patients, are in danger of becoming research waste unless the universities involved make the results public soon.

Universities and NHS Trusts in the UK seem likely to perform better. In recent years, many have worked hard to make the results of their drug trials public, with impressive results.

The project will ascertain to what extent UK sponsors’ efforts to prevent research waste in drug trials have extended to other interventional trials, including trials of medical devices, surgical interventions, physiotherapy, and other non-drug interventions.

In addition, the project will give universities and NHS Trusts access to lists of their unreported trials so that these institutions can take action before valuable research results get lost forever.

The project will identify applicable trials via two registries, ISRCTN and The project is funded with £9,600 by HealthWatch, a London-based charity that promotes science and integrity in healthcare. It will be implemented by Till Bruckner, founder of TranspariMED. Details on how TranspariMED itself is funded can be found here.

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