On Friday of last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services published a long-awaited final rule (PDF) that governs the registration and data reporting for clinical trials with ClinicalTrials.gov. The final rule and an accompanying complementary policy issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) represents the formal codification and clarification of requirements first described in Section 801 of the 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA). These requirements oblige research sponsors or other responsible parties to register most kinds of clinical trials with an accepted, publicly available registry (such as ClinicalTrials.gov) and to report certain key data about the trial design, study population, and outcomes.
However, despite the enactment of FDAAA in 2008, compliance with many of its requirements has generally been poor, as both scholarly investigations and media reports have documented. Although registration of trials has improved during this interval, possibly due to many scientific journals refusing to publish reports from unregistered studies, basic summary data (including information about adverse events) from many clinical trials have gone unreported in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry, with academic researchers being among the worst offenders for late reporting or failure to report. In addition, although Section 801 of FDAAA includes penalties for not meeting reporting obligations, no enforcement actions have yet been taken.
The final rule, which goes into effect in January of 2017, clarifies reporting requirements and responsibilities, provides checklists for research sponsors, establishes penalties for failing to fulfill reporting obligations in a timely fashion, and obligates sponsors to furnish the full research protocol to ClincalTrials.gov. Importantly, the HHS rules and NIH policy also articulate new standards for gathering and reporting data about the race and ethnicity of trial participants—information that has often been lacking from many trials datasets.
For further details: NIH news release summarizing new reporting requirements National Public Radio web article and audio segment on the final rule (Francis Collins [NIH], Robert Califf [FDA], and Monique Anderson [Duke Clinical Research Institute] interviewed) Summary of Final Rule in New England Journal of Medicine ClinicalTrials.gov summary on Final Rule/NIH Policy NIH Policy on Funding Opportunity Announcements for Clinical Trials NIH Policy on Good Clinical Practice Training for NIH Awardees