Peter Doshi, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues are fed up that only about half of all clinical trials are published. They want to change that, by convincing researchers and journals to print data that have been publicly released through other means, such as litigation and Freedom of Information Act requests, but, practically speaking, are sitting dormant in the filing cabinets or computers of individual scientists.
The unusual proposal is called RIAT, for Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials. It was published today in BMJand also endorsed by PLOS Medicine. Doshi, who studies comparative effectiveness research, came up with the idea when his colleague, Swaroop Vedula, was analyzing reporting biases involving the drug gabapentin. Gabapentin's maker Pfizer had been sued for the way in which they marketed the drug for unapproved indications. During litigation, Pfizer had released thousands of pages involving gabapentin trials, and Vedula was poring through them. (One of the authors of the RIAT paper, Kay Dickersin, served as an expert witness against Pfizer in gabapentin litigation.) Pfizer had published only 12 of its 20 trials in gabapentin. But Doshi's center at Hopkins had the clinical study reports detailing the results of the other eight.
At the time, "it just hits me," Doshi says. "Why are we still referring to these as unpublished trials? Why aren't we publishing them ourselves?"