The withholding of clinical trial data is common practice in the medical scientific community. Trial data and results may be withheld for a number of reasons (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) This practice is not only harmful to patients, but also undermines the prescribing practices of physicians. Furthermore, suppression of results if they seem to be unfavourable to the sponsoring drug company's profits is a disservice to the medical researchers around the globe whose research may benefit from analysis of those hidden results. As a result, physicians and their patients who receive prescriptions for these medications are underinformed. For example, if results on certain side effects are not released, or are re-coded to seem less alarming (see here), then how will doctors know to warn their patients about these side effects? How will patients know that what they are experiencing is a side effect about which they can go and see their doctor? How will doctors know to identify as side effects the adverse events that their patients are experiencing? The withholding of data undermines not only doctors, but the very people that medications are supposed to help. Couple this suppression with clever, catchy, and far-reaching marketing campaigns that provide drug advertising to both physicians and patients (see here and here), and we begin to see the difficulty in trying to obtain not only unadulterated results, but also potentially unfavourable results from the clinical trials themselves. Although unfavourable to companies, these results would be favourable to patients, physicians, and researchers worldwide.
Information on unreleased clinical trial data has been made available with a new online tool called "TrialsTracker", which maintains a list of all of the trials that have been registered on leading clinical trial registries throughout the globe, tracking how many of these trials have been updated with results. Take a look! Sneak peak: "Since Jan 2006, all major trial sponsors completed 25,927 eligible trials and haven't published results for 11,714 trials. That means 45.2% of their trials are missing results."
We've been deceived: Many clinical trial results are never published
Restoring Study 329: Efficacy and harms of paroxetine and imipramine in treatment of major depression in adolescence
De-coding serious adverse events in Study 329: The work of the RIAT team
Part 2: FDA investigation "Finds Trash Bags of Data"
"How do we face the outside world when they begin criticizing us for suppressing data?" FDA finds that Canadian drug companies have hidden, altered, and destroyed data
Novartis under investigation: An arrest, manipulated data, and 10,000 cases of hidden side effects
Another attempt made to require all clinical trial results to be disclosed on ClinicalTrials.gov
Endemic Fraud: Misrepresentation of clinical trial data
Direct-to-Physician Advertising (DTPA)
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA)