How do the world’s biggest drug companies compare, in their transparency commitments?

July 27th, 2017 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | No Comments »

Here’s a paper, and associated website, that we launch today: we have assessed, and then ranked, all the biggest drug companies in the world, to compare their public commitments on trials transparency. Regular readers will be familiar with this ongoing battle. In medicine we use the results of clinical trials to make informed treatments about which treatments work best; but the results of clinical trials are being routinely and legally withheld from doctors, researchers, and patients. This is a problem for industry sponsored trials, and for trials funded by governments and charities.

So what did we find? The results on the individual companies are important, but we also came across some fascinating patterns. While companies superficially have commitments to register and report clinical trials, in reality, there are often huge gaps in their policies, with many failing to include past trials (trials on the medicines we use today) and trials on off-label uses or unlicensed medicines, which are both important. We also found a huge range of commitments, which is exactly what audits are good for: identify who’s doing well, and who’s doing badly, so that everyone can learn from the best players. Lastly, as we went along we collected some fascinating examples of problematic policies, ambiguous language, inconsistent commitments, odd exclusions, and so on.

Overall this audit was a huge project, and we hope it will be widely used. You can see which companies are the best, and the worst. If you’re a researcher trying to get information on a trial from a company, you can use this to determine whether a company are breaching their commitments. If you’re an ethical investor (at the AllTrials campaign we have a network of dozens, covering €3.5t trillion of investments) you can use this to guide your activist investment choices. 

The full methods and results can be read, for free, in the paper. But we’ve also built a nice interactive website with mySociety (coming soon) to make the data more accessible. We think this is an important aspect of communicating results and making them useful, and used, and we’re keen for feedback on the site.

Coming next, we have ranked the policies of non-industry trial funders, and that paper will land shortly. We also have some great new and improved projects launching soon where we track the performance of institutions, rather than their promises: the proportion of their completed trials for which they have shared results. Meanwhile, you can read more about the battle for unreported clinical trials at


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