Non-profit Works to Keep Tabs on Big Pharma

The pharmaceutical industry is consistently ranked as one of the least liked industries in the country, with many Americans questioning the ethics of big pharma companies. One non-profit group hopes to bring some much needed accountability to the sector. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Since 2009 Jennifer Miller and her non profit Bioethics International have been creating a system to rate drug companies.

The group's first major study looks at one of the factors fueling distrust of big pharma - a perceived lack of transparency.

"There are concerns around the fate of the information that is learned from the clinical trials," says Miller, an assistant professor in the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine.

In the study, part of what will become an annual Good Pharma Scorecard, the group looked at the 15 drugs approved by the FDA in 2012 that were manufactured by 10 major pharmaceutical companies

Miller found that only half of the companies fully complied with FDA's requirement about disclosing certain clinical trials 

The study examined over 300 trials involving 100,000 participants.

"We found that a median of 71 percent of clinical trials that were subject to mandatory disclosures under the law met the law," notes Miller.

According to the study a third of the drug trial results never saw the light of day. The question is, why?

The lack of information hurts the ability of physicians to properly prescribe drugs.

Another issue, if a safety concern was discovered in a trial but not disclosed, participants in future trials of similar drugs might be at risk, too. For example, the study found that one drug company only disclosed 21 percent of the trials for its HIV medication.

Forcing more disclosure from big pharma, Miller says, will hopefully lead to a healthier public.

"Patients have been known not to take their drugs when distrust is too high, particularly elderly and minority populations," says Miller.

Miller says the scorecard also shows that 100 percent compliance is attainable. Some winners there include Glaxo Smith Kline and Johnson & Johnson.

A spokesperson for PhRMA, a trade group that represents the industry, says the study doesn't take into account FDA granted extensions for posting trial results later than expected and says it remains, "Firmly committed to enhancing public health through responsible clinical trial data sharing that recognizes the importance of protecting patient privacy."

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