Too much of modern medicine is still veiled in secrecy. Data about the effectiveness and safety of cholesterol-lowering statins and the anti-viral drug Tamiflu may never be revealed, while 20 per cent of trials of surgical procedures are stopped early and we never know the reasons in a third of these cases.
Despite a legal challenge by the drugs industry, the European Medicines Agency is pushing forward with plans to make all the raw data from new clinical trials publicly available, although this will not take effect fully until next year.
But this does not include data from any current or previous clinical trials, and there's still "a huge legacy of secrecy to unpick", says Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). This includes data from trials into Tamiflu (oseltamivir)and statins.
The same secrecy surrounds many surgical procedures. In a separate article, researcher Stephen Chapman reports that one-fifth of surgical trials are stopped early and that a third of these remain unpublished five years after they were stopped, and so people don't know the procedures' dangers and short-comings.
(Source: BMJ, 2015; 350:g7811)