Earlier this year, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine combed through clinicaltrials.gov, looking to see how quickly after completion trials were reported. It found that, after the legal maximum of a year was up, just 17% of those paid for by industry had had their results published. Drug firms were not, though, the worst offenders. Only 8.1% of trials paid for by the National Institutes of Health, the American government’s main conduit for medical-research money, were reported within a year. And just 5.7% of the ones paid for by other government agencies and academic institutions were (see chart). Moreover, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency which monitors the website, has the power to fine companies that do not comply, it has never actually done so. More here.
Straightforward pharma-bashing on one level but given that this is a UK column written through an ostensibly religious lens by Canon Fraser, it’s hardly being charitable in not mentioning pharma’s increased commitment to, eg rare diseases and CSR over the last few years. And, jarring with the principles of Fraser’s position (freedom of choice being a core tenet of Christianity) – it seems to overlook any notion of personal responsibility… for example he doesn’t consider that if people tried a bit harder to manage their diets and didn’t impose such high obesity-related costs, there would be more public resources freed-up, to be deployed in targeting those areas on which pharma quite legitimately can’t focus heavily. The author probably has a pension, it’s highly likely some of that balanced portfolio is invested in health care. Yes, it’s an opinion piece, and yes it’s in a left-leaning vehicle but even in this context it’s still a bit of a shame that shortsighted, unbalanced dogma persists about an industry and sector that has worked through a difficult few years.