Exciting news from Brussels this morning – law that would mean researchers running a clinical trial in Europe have to register the trial before it begins and to publish summary results within a year of its end is a step closer. The committee of representatives from every EU member state government has agreed with the text of the Clinical Trials Regulation proposed by MEPs led by Glenis Willmott. This agreement now has to be formally ratified by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers (probably in early 2014) but today’s provisional agreement is a fantastic result at a very important stage of negotiation and is down to the hard work of the MEPs and thanks to your input.
The proposals agreed today include:
- A publicly accessible EU database, set up and run by European Medicines Agency, containing:
- A register of all trials carried out in the EU
- A summary of results for all trials, uploaded 1 year after the end of the trial at the latest
- As well as a summary understandable for a layperson
- Clinical Study Reports for all trials used in a marketing authorisation request, whether it is approved, rejected or withdrawn
- A statement that Clinical Study Reports should, in general, not be considered commercially confidential
- Fines to be imposed by Member States for non-compliance with the transparency requirements
- A requirement for all trials to be registered or published in order to be used to back up a new clinical trial authorisation (will encourage the retrospective registering/publishing of old trials)
- The Clinical Trial Master File retained for at least 25 years.
Read more on the agreement reached today on the European Parliament website.
Glenis Willmott MEP said: “For too long, unflattering studies on new medicines have gone undisclosed. Around half of all trials are never published, usually those with negative or disappointing results. It is vital we know about negative outcomes, otherwise trials can be conducted repeatedly before it becomes public knowledge they are ineffective, or even dangerous.”
The legislation will need final approval from the European Parliament.
“We are determined to finalise this before the European elections in May. This legislation will set the global gold standard for transparency in clinical trials, and I call on all EU governments to support the agreement” Ms Willmott said.
Síle Lane, Director of Campaigns, Sense About Science said: “We are very pleased to hear that EU governments have agreed the draft Clinical Trials Regulation which contains proposals that would mean all clinical trials done in Europe will have to be registered and results reported. Well done to Glenis Willmott MEP who has worked very hard to get this agreement. We know Glenis was helped enormously by the hundreds of individuals and organisations who got involved and told MEPs and Ministers their reasons why transparency is vital. Now is the time for companies and academics to listen to all these voices and commit to registering and reporting results from trials done in the past too. There’s no excuse for not publishing results but a huge public health benefit to having a complete picture of what was found in trials conducted on treatments currently available to patients.”
Dr Ben Goldacre, co-founder of AllTrials said: “This is great news, and patients around the world should be grateful for the fantastic work that has been done on this by politicians in Europe. However we must remember that it only covers new trials, starting from 2014. The vast majority of medicines prescribed today came on the market 5, 10, or 20 years ago. This new law will do nothing to improve the evidence base for those treatments. We still cannot get all the results of all the trials on even the simplest everyday treatments, the antidepressants, the statins, the blood pressure treatments, and more. Those are the drugs that doctors are using right now, and will continue to use for at least a generation. Notably, the law would also do nothing to ensure that researchers and doctors can access all the results of trials on controversial drugs such as Tamiflu.
The campaign for access to trial results began over 20 years ago. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, industry promised that everything had changed, and that everything had become more transparent. We now know that this wasn’t true. It is unacceptable that results from the 1990s and 2000s should continue to be withheld from doctors, researchers and patients. It is unacceptable to say that these trial results were allowed to somehow continue “disappearing”, even while some of the industry was publicly promising greater transparency. With their reckless belief that they could stonewall forever, too much of the industry have stored up a big problem for themselves, and for patients. We need the results of all trials, of all uses, of all the treatments we prescribe today. Without that, we cannot practice medicine safely and effectively.”
Mark Wilson, CEO, Cochrane Collaboration said: “Cochrane is delighted with today’s agreement on clinical trials transparency; a victory for patients, practitioners and policy-makers across Europe, and a clear and compelling message to decision-makers worldwide. The ratification of the agreement in 2014 will be a key milestone on the AllTrials journey to ‘all results reported’ becoming a reality.”