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:
- European Medicines Agency policy on access to documents (related to medicinal products for human and veterinary use)
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:
- Output of the European Medicines Agency policy on access to documents related to medicinal products for human and veterinary use
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. For more information on the development of the policy, see publication and access to clinical-trial data: an inclusive development process.
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 is currently reviewing and analysing more than 1,000 comments received from an unprecedented range of stakeholders during the public consultation. The Agency expected to publish the final policy at the end of 2013, however, in order to conduct the appropriate in-depth analysis, the Agency will spend additional time in this reviewing phase, which may delay the finalisation. An update on timelines will be provided at the latest following the EMA Management Board meeting on 11-12 December 2013.
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.
- Clinical trials in human medicines
- Access to patient-level trial data – A boon to drug developers
- Open clinical trial data for all? A view from regulators
- European Medicines Agency updates on development of its policy on publication and access to clinical-trial data (13/11/2013)
- Draft policy 70: Publication and access to clinical-trial data (24/06/2013)
- European Medicines Agency policy on access to documents (related to medicinal products for human and veterinary use) (30/11/2010)
- Heads of Medicines Agencies / European Medicines Agency guidance document on the identification of commercially confidential information and personal data within the structure of the marketing-authorisation application: Release of information after the granting of a marketing authorisation (27/03/2012)
- Principles to be applied for the implementation of the Heads of Medicines Agencies / European Medicines Agency guidance on the identification of commercially confidential information and protected personal data in marketing-authorisation applications (27/03/2012)