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Every Last Drop of Information

A lot of information can be wrung out of clinical trial data, but oftentimes not all of the possible analyses are performed, writes the editorial board of the New York Times.

While some pharmaceutical companies and others make their clinical trial data available to outside researchers, the Times notes that smaller companies and academic researchers often don't. Still, data that is accessible is rarely analyzed by outside researchers — researchers have only requested access to 15.5 percent of the available trials, according to one study cited by the Times.

Part of the issue, the Times editorial board says, is that there isn't a lot of funding for such data re-analysis, even though it could uncover new links or highlight problems with the initial analysis. To that end, the board says the National Institutes of Health and nonprofit groups could encourage such work through increased funding and adds that research institutes could form partnerships to validate each other's work. Other issues, it adds, are that the original researchers worry that their work will be taken out of context and that trial participants must have consented to have their data shared.

"By making data available and supporting analysis, foundations, research institutions and drug companies can increase the benefit of clinical trials and pave the way for new findings that could help patients," the Times says.