Magdalena Zwierzyna, Mark Davies, Aroon D Hingorani, Jackie Hunter

First published June 6th, 2018


Objective To investigate the distribution, design characteristics, and dissemination of clinical trials by funding organisation and medical specialty.

Design Cross sectional descriptive analysis.

Data sources Trial protocol information from, metadata of journal articles in which trial results were published (PubMed), and quality metrics of associated journals from SCImago Journal and Country Rank database.

Selection criteria All 45 620 clinical trials evaluating small molecule therapeutics, biological drugs, adjuvants, and vaccines, completed after January 2006 and before July 2015, including randomised controlled trials and non-randomised studies across all clinical phases.

Results Industry was more likely than non-profit funders to fund large international randomised controlled trials, although methodological differences have been decreasing with time. Among 27 835 completed efficacy trials (phase II-IV), 15 084 (54.2%) had disclosed their findings publicly. Industry was more likely than non-profit trial funders to disseminate trial results (59.3% (10 444/17 627) v 45.3% (4555/10 066)), and large drug companies had higher disclosure rates than small ones (66.7% (7681/11 508) v 45.2% (2763/6119)). Trials funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were disseminated more often than those of other non-profit institutions (60.0% (1451/2417) v 40.6% (3104/7649)). Results of studies funded by large drug companies and NIH were more likely to appear on than were those from non-profit funders, which were published mainly as journal articles. Trials reporting the use of randomisation were more likely than non-randomised studies to be published in a journal article (6895/19 711 (34.9%) v1408/7748 (18.2%)), and journal publication rates varied across disease areas, ranging from 42% for autoimmune diseases to 20% for oncology.

Conclusions Trial design and dissemination of results vary substantially depending on the type and size of funding institution as well as the disease area under study.

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