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Two Studies Demonstrate Selective Publication Trends and Gaps in Clinical Trial Reporting

Researchers running clinical trials are required to submit information to the NIH-run ClinicalTrials.gov database. But two recent reports indicate that compliance with this transparency mandate is spotty at best for trials that lead to published biomedical research. What’s more, many registered trials never lead to published studies, resulting in selective publication and outcome reporting that hides many studies with negative results.

According to Nature, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has required, since 2000, that authors submit trial information to databases like ClinicalTrials.gov in order to have their manuscripts published.

But one study, appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined published articles that relied on registered trials and found that only 45.5 percent were adequately registered—that is, researchers submitted data before the end of the trial and clearly specified the outcome.

Results from industry-sponsored trials registered at ClinicalTrials.gov lead to publications in only 40 percent of cases, according to another report appearing in PLoS Medicine. NGO-funded trial results saw publication 56 percent of the time, but government-funded trials only 47 percent.

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