Scientists say publishing all clinical trials would improve data
Published Friday, October 30, 2015 10:00PM EDT
With news this week that data used in a Canadian study on osteoporosis may have been misrepresented, some are calling for an overhaul in how clinical trials are published and analyzed.
An investigation at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto found that researchers “manipulated” data back in 2011 on a study that suggested nitroglycerin could help to treat osteoporosis.
Many news outlets reported on the 2011 study, including CTV News.
Women’s College Hospital said there was evidence of “systematic data manipulation” used in the study, and now its lead researcher, Dr. Sophie Jamal, has resigned her clinical privileges. She has also stepped down as research director at the Centre for Osteoporosis and Bone Health.
It’s only one of many studies to be called into question in recent years. On Friday, Japan’s Waseda University was set to revoke a researcher’s doctoral degree, after data was falsified in a study on stem cells, according to a report.
In some cases, the journals that published the studies are choosing to issue retractions after findings of fraud.
JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, is now considering whether to retract the osteoporosis study in light of Women’s College Hospital’s own internal investigation.
Peter Doshi, a researcher at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, says that when studies are retracted, it hurts everyone and erodes the public’s trust.
"These stories don't do anything to reassure the public to have trust in medicine and science,” he told CTV News.
Recently, Doshi and colleagues reviewed a 2001 study on Paxil that had declared the antidepressant "safe and effective" for children and teens. Doshi and his team say those conclusions were wrong.
Doshi is calling on scientists to take a second look at the data of thousands of other studies. He’s helped launch RIAT, the Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials initiative, which encourages abandoned or misreported studies to be published or formally corrected to ensure doctors and patients have complete and accurate information.
Some say an effective way to improve the veracity of clinical trials would be to publish more of them, and let the public see the results.
"Half of all the clinical trial results have never been reported. So what was done in the trials has never been made available,” said James Cockerill of the AllTrials movement.
AllTrials calls for “all past and present clinical trials to be registered and their full methods and summary results reported.”
“We need to move to a scientific model where we don't just assume something is true, or the data are right because the authorities tell us it's so,” he said.
By opening up every study to the public, Cockerill added, they “can be looked at with a thousand eyes.”
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip