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September 5, 2012

Clinical Trial Data as a Public Good

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Dr Rodwin); Suffolk University Law School, Boston, Massachusetts (Dr Rodwin); and Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston (Dr Abramson).

JAMA. 2012;308(9):871-872. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.9661

Knowledge of the benefits and risks of prescription drugs is based mainly on published reports of clinical trials, yet the medical literature may present an incomplete and potentially biased sample of clinical trials.1 Trials with positive results generally are published more frequently than studies that conclude that a new drug poses greater risks or is no more effective than standard therapy or a placebo. Furthermore, some articles may distort trial findings by omitting important data or by modifying prespecified outcome measures. Lack of access to detailed information about clinical trials can undermine the integrity of medical knowledge.