Release of data from clinical trials

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The European Medicines Agency bases its scientific opinions on the results of clinical trials carried out and submitted by pharmaceutical companies. The Agency has been releasing clinical-trial reports on request as part of its access-to-documents policy since late 2010 and is now working towards its goal of publishing clinical-trial data proactively for the medicines it has assessed. As part of this process, it released a draft policy on the publication and access to clinical-trial data in June 2013 for a three-month public consultation.

Reactive release of documents

The Agency has been releasing documents submitted as part of applications for marketing authorisation on request since November 2010, when it published its new policy on access to documents:

According to this policy, the Agency releases these documents, including clinical-trial reports, once the decision-making process for the medicine in question has been completed.

More information on the types of documents the Agency holds, whether they can be released and whether they have to be redacted to protect personal data or commercially confidential information is available in this document:

Between November 2010 and April 2013, the Agency released over 1.9 million pages of clinical-trial data in response to safety-related requests.

Proactive publication of data

The Agency is committed to continously extending its approach to transparency. A key goal in this process is the proactive publication of clinical-trial data for medicines once the decision-making process on an application for a European Union (EU)-wide marketing authorisation is complete. 

The Agency has embarked on this process because it believes that the release of data is about establishing trust and confidence in the system. This will enable the independent re-analysis of the evidence used by the Agency's committees to determine their benefits and risks and is expected to lead to public-health benefits.

As outlined in the article Open clinical trial data for all? A view from regulators, published in April 2012, the Agency does not consider these data to be commercially confidential. However, it acknowledges that the publication of full sets of raw data runs the risk of breaching patient confidentiality and that analysis by independent groups is not always equivalent to it being free of conflicts of interests and of high quality.

Policy on publication and access to clinical-trial data

In June 2013, the Agency released a draft policy on publication and access to clinical-trial data for a three-month public consultation:

The Agency took a considered approach to developing this draft policy, based on respecting the views and concerns brought forward by a broad range of stakeholders and European bodies. 

The draft policy balances the commitment to give the widest possible access to data for independent scrutiny with the need to protect personal data as well as legitimate commercially confidential information.

The Agency received more than 1,000 comments from an unprecedented range of stakeholders during the public consultation. The Agency will continue to work with stakeholders, including industry, academia and civil society organisations, to further clarify and fine-tune the proposed rules to achieve the broadest possible consensus. This work will be guided by a set of key principles agreed by the Agency’s Management Board on 12 December 2013. The policy was discussed at the March 2014 Management Board meeting. The final policy and an implementation plan will be presented to the Management Board for endorsement at its June 2014 meeting.

For more information on the development of the policy, see publication and access to clinical-trial data: an inclusive development process.

Summary results of clinical trials

The Agency is also involved in a separate process to make summaries of the results of clinical trials publicly available through the EU Clinical Trials Register.

In October 2013, the Agency upgraded the EudraCT database to enable sponsors to enter result-related information from clinical trials, in line with guidance from the European Commission. Based on this data, the summary results will start to be made publicly available in a forthcoming version of the EU Clinical Trials Register. 

This is a separate initiative to the Agency’s goal of publishing clinical-trial data included in marketing-authorisation applications for medicines once the decision-making phase of the marketing-authorisation process has been completed.

More information