John Hampton tells the story of how he got a clinical trial published after 13 years. In 1980, he led a trial that investigated the heart drug lorcainide. More of the people in the trial who were given lorcainide died than people in the trial taking the placebo. Because it wasn’t published and doctors didn’t know about the results of the trial they continued prescribing drugs in the same class of anti-arrhythmic. During this time, it is estimated that 100,000 people died unnecessarily in the US alone. The International Journal of Cardiology agreed to publish the trial in 1993 as an example of publication bias.
Sir Iain Chalmers, Coordinator of the James Lind Initiative and co-founder of AllTrials:
Too many people have assumed that it was the fault of the researchers who did the trial of lorcainide in 1980 that a report did not appear in print until 13 years later. I am very pleased that the senior investigator – Professor John Hampton – agreed to provide an account of the lorcainide trial story for publication in the James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org). Not only does his article make clear that the researchers were not responsible for the delay, it actually makes clear to everyone why they deserve credit for persisting in their attempts to report it, despite repeated rejections by journals. Their example is a reminder to all of us who call for ‘abandoned trials’ to be reported to call also for the research needed to understand the reasons for non-publication, so that evidence-informed solutions to this problem can be identified.
Read more from Iain Chalmers in The BMJ.
Hampton J (2015). Therapeutic fashion and publication bias: the case of anti-arrhythmic drugs in heart attack. JLL Bulletin: Commentaries on the history of treatment evaluation (www.jameslindlibrary.org).
Read other stories of researchers publishing their old data in our recovered trials series.