Why medical journals must make researchers share data from clinical trials

From the Conversation July 6 2015

BMJ Acting Head of Research and Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School

This month a new BMJ policy on sharing data from clinical trials takes effect. From July 1 2015, the authors of all clinical trials published by the journal must agree to make individual patient data from the trial available to other researchers upon reasonable request. Among major medical journals, only PLOS also requires data sharing as a condition of publication.

An additional benefit of wider sharing of data from clinical trials is that it might help restore trust in the clinical research enterprise. At present, according to the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation: “Public sentiment toward the clinical research enterprise is at an all time low … more than 70% of Americans believe that drug companies put profits ahead of patient needs.”

It is important to counter cynicism about medical research. If patients and doctors lack confidence in medical evidence, what hope is there for evidence-based medicine? If the evidence on which guidelines and recommendations are based is not trusted, how likely is it that doctors will apply therapies or act in other ways that are consistent with the best evidence?

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