Trials, Tricks and Transparency: How Disclosure Rules Affect Clinical Knowledge

with P González and N Porteiro, Journal of Health Economics, 2009, DOI

Scandals of selective reporting of clinical trial results by pharmaceutical firms have underlined the need for more transparency in clinical trials. We provide a theoretical framework which reproduces incentives for selective reporting and yields three key implications concerning regulation. First, a compulsory clinical trial registry complemented through a voluntary clinical trial results database can implement full transparency (the existence of all trials as well as their results is known). Second, full transparency comes at a price. It has a deterrence effect on the incentives to conduct clinical trials, as it reduces the firms’ gains from trials. Third, in principle, a voluntary clinical trial results database without a compulsory registry is a superior regulatory tool; but we provide some qualified support for additional compulsory registries when medical decision-makers cannot anticipate correctly the drug companies’ decisions whether to conduct trials.