21st May 2013

This letter appeared in the Irish Times on International Clinical Trials Day (20th May 2013).

Sir, – It is very strange that Science Today (May 16th) devoted more than a half-page to clinical trials, without acknowledging that the trials system is the subject of considerable controversy.

The UK House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology has recently held hearings on the withholding of clinical trial data from doctors and patients.

A campaign for release of all trial results has won support from the British Medical Journal , Wellcome Trust and Public Library of Science, among other major medical and scientific organisations.

Six months ago, the pharmaceutical company, Glaxo Smith Kline, undertook to publish all data from its clinical trials, going back to 2000.

The specialist academic journal, Trials , has recently published critical reviews of aspects of the conduct and reporting of trials.

Ben Goldacre, who is a central figure in current campaigns and controversies, claims in his book, Bad Pharma , that trials are too short, that they often test drugs against the wrong comparator, that drugs companies resist carrying out studies of drugs’ efficacy with “real-world” patients, and that academics have papers on drugs trials written in their name by contractors for drug companies.

You don’t have to subscribe to all of Dr Goldacre’s polemics to see that you have marked World Clinical Trials Day, May 20th, with a very partial summary of the current issues. – Your, etc,