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Major German research funder launches audit of clinical trial portfolio

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) is now conducting an audit of the clinical trials it has supported in the past, a response to a Freedom of Information request filed by TranspariMED reveals.


TranspariMED had asked the German public research funder for a list of all its trials completed between 2009 and 2017.


DFG replied that it currently has no such comprehensive dataset, but stated that:


"DFG is currently preparing an evaluation of its clinical trials programme. In the framework of this evaluation the data you requested will be collected and analysed, as the outcomes of trials supported by DFG is of high interest including for DFG itself."


The scope of the audit is unclear, but TranspariMED assumes that Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft will use the opportunity to check whether and when clinical trials were registered and their results made public,


Rampant research waste in Germany


Previous research has shown that nearly a third of German academic trials never make their results public.


This not only wastes public money, but also harms patients because it leaves gaps in the evidence base on the efficacy and safety of drugs, medical devices, and non-drug treatments.


Due to gaps in German law, there is still no legal obligation to make the results of many German clinical trials public.


Funders worldwide step up efforts


Many public funders worldwide are currently stepping up their efforts to curb research waste.


Recent funder initiatives include auditing trial portfolios, strengthening policies, publishing monitoring reports, and actively chasing up missing trial results with grantee institutions.


A recent study showed that DFG's efforts to prevent costly research waste fell short of WHO best practices. TranspariMED is currently running a follow-up study to document the progress made by DFG and other funders over the past year.


Christmas surprise for German patients


Till Bruckner, founder of TranspariMED, said:


"This is a wonderful Christmas surprise from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for German patients and taxpayers."


"TranspariMED applauds DFG's efforts, and hopes that DFG will actively follow up on all trials that remain unpublished until their results have been made public."


Ongoing research by TranspariMED suggests that reminders sent to German universities that ran clinical trials whose results remain unpublished can be effective at prompting universities to chase up the missing results.



The original Freedom of Information request and DFG's response (both in German language) can be found here.


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