Objectives: To identify the policies of major pharmaceutical companies on transparency of trials, to extract structured data detailing each companies’ commitments, and to assess concordance with ethical and professional guidance.
Main outcome measures: Companies’ commitments on sharing summary results, clinical study reports (CSRs), individual patient data (IPD), and trial registration, for prospective and retrospective trials.
Results: Policies were highly variable. Of 23 companies eligible from the top 25 companies by revenue, 21 (91%) committed to register all trials and 22 (96%) committed to share summary results; however, policies commonly lacked timelines for disclosure, and trials on unlicensed medicines and off-label uses were only included in six (26%). 17 companies (74%) committed to share the summary results of past trials. The median start date for this commitment was 2005. 22 companies (96%) had a policy on sharing CSRs, mostly on request: two committed to share only synopses and only two policies included unlicensed treatments. 22 companies (96%) had a policy to share IPD; 14 included phase IV trials (one included trials on unlicensed medicines and off-label uses). Policies in the exploratory group of smaller companies made fewer transparency commitments. Two companies fell short of industry body commitments on registration, three on summary results. Examples of contradictory and ambiguous language were documented and summarised by theme. 23/42 companies (55%) responded to feedback; 7/1806 scored policy elements were revised in light of feedback from companies (0.4%). Several companies committed to changing policy; some made changes immediately.
Conclusions: The commitments made by companies to transparency of trials were highly variable. Other than journal submission for all trials within 12 months, all elements of best practice were met by at least one company, showing that these commitments are realistic targets.