Overcoming publication and dissemination bias in infectious diseases clinical trials

Martin P Grobusch, Claire Ruiz Del Portal Luyten, Benjamin J Visser, Hanna K de Jong, Abraham Goorhuis, Thomas Hanscheid

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Non-timely reporting, selective reporting, or non-reporting of clinical trial results are prevalent and serious issues. WHO mandates that summary results be available in registries within 12 months of study completion and published in full text within 24 months. However, only a limited number of clinical trials in infectious diseases, including those done during the COVID-19 pandemic, have their results posted on ClinicalTrials.gov. An analysis of 50 trials of eight antiviral drugs tested against COVID-19 with a completion date of at least 2 years ago revealed that only 18% had their results published in the registry, with 40% not publishing any results. Non-timely and non-reporting practices undermine patient participation and are ethically unacceptable. Strategies should include obligatory reporting of summary results within 12 months in clinical trial registries, with progress towards peer-reviewed publication within 24 months indicated. Timely publication of research papers should be encouraged through an automated flagging mechanism in clinical trial registries that draws attention to the status of results reporting, such as a green tick for trials that have reported summary results within 12 months and a red tick in case of failure to do so. We propose the inclusion of mandatory clinical trial reporting standards in the International Conference on Harmonization Good Clinical Practice guidelines, which should prohibit sponsor contract clauses that restrict reporting (referred to as gag clauses) and require timely reporting of results as part of the ethics committees' clearance process for clinical trial protocols.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLancet Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)e189-e195
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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