Sunday, February 04, 2018

Advancing Science, Avoiding Harm: New Fed Rules to Raise Curtain on Clinical Trial Results

The Wall Street Journal today carried a piece about sweeping, new federal research disclosure rules aimed at beefing up the public accessibility of findings of clinical trials backed by billions in public dollars.

The regulations are targeting what Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has called a "disappointing" record of publishing clinical trial results.  He said that "both real and potential harm can result from failure to fully disclose the results of clinical trials."

The regulations are scheduled to roll out somewhat slowly but have been more than 20 years in the works. The Journal reporters, Daniela Hernandez and Amy Dockser Marcus, wrote online today,
"The new rules are part of a push for greater transparency and accountability for the NIH's huge investment in biomedical research. In the past, many organizations have failed to properly register studies and report their findings, actions that NIH officials say result in misspent funds, potential human harm and a lack of public trust in science. The NIH spends roughly $3 billion annually on clinical trials."
Violation of the rules carries the possibility of fines running up to thousands of dollars a day plus endangerment of future funding from the NIH.

Already at one California university, the requirements have increased the workload. The WSJ reported,
"Stanford University School of Medicine is 'adding five or six full-time employees to our overall infrastructure for human research,' said Mark Cullen, senior associate dean for research.
"Dr. Cullen said many of his researchers are still worried and confused about how the new policies will affect their work; the new hires are meant to add to an existing support system made up of roughly 100 staffers."
The NIH is particularly interested in reporting research that has negative results. The WSJ wrote,
"Under the old rules that required publication in journals, negative results often remained undisclosed because journals prefer to publish positive findings.
"'The release of negative results not only prevents duplication and potential unnecessary risk to human volunteers, it also advances our understanding of the science,' said NIH’s Dr. (Carrie) Wolinetz (NIH's associate director for science policy).
In 2015, Collins and Kathy Hudson, then NIH's deputy director for science, outreach and policy and now executive director of the People-Centered Research Foundation, wrote in JAMA,
"If the clinical research community fails to share what is learned, allowing data to remain unpublished or unreported, researchers are reneging on the promise to clinical trial participants, are wasting time and resources, and are jeopardizing public trust.

"The scientific community has a disappointing track record for dissemination of clinical trial results.

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