The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has launched its new Clinical Trials Portal, representing the first internet search engine designed to provide a link to online information posted by pharmaceutical firms about clinical trials worldwide, and the first stage in the development of a specialised worldwide clinical trial search engine.

The portal, which was developed in conjunction with information technology leader IBM, is the culmination of more than seven months’ work by pharmaceutical industry technical and regulatory experts, and currently contains more than 250,000 links to sources of clinical trial information, as well as a searchable registry of ongoing trials and access to completed studies.

Dr Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Swiss drugmaker, Novartis, and President of the IFPMA, said: “IFMPA is launching the first international web portal to provide doctors, patients and their families with simple access to the most complete information on clinical trials of drugs and vaccines. The launch of this portal shows the pharmaceutical industry’s commitment to full transparency in the interest of patients and healthcare professionals.”

Further explaining the need for such a gateway, Harvey Bale, Director General of the IFPMA, told PharmaTimes News Online that the growing attention to healthcare has left people wanting more and more clinically-relevant information, and that this new service should help increase the transparency of clinical trial data.

Speculation on concealment of clinical research came to a head last year with the sudden withdrawal of Merck & Co’s blockbuster analgesic Vioxx (rofecoxib) due to safety concerns, amid accusations that the firm had withheld negative study data [[01/10/04a]].

This, coupled with the Industry’s growing bad press, spurred the commitment made by the research-based pharmaceutical industry earlier this year, through the IFPMA, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, the Japan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the PhRMA and Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, to provide a coherent industry blueprint for improving clinical trial transparency.

The Portal’s search engine includes links to pharmaceutical company sites, Industry association resources, such as the US pharmaceutical industry association’s, and government sites carrying details of studies, such as the US National Library of Medicine’s In addition, online trial information resources, such as the European Union’s planned Europharm facility, may be linked to when they become available, the IFPMA notes.

The Portal allows for two broad types of searches - for listings of ongoing clinical studies, providing access to basic information, and results of completed clinical trials, which are made available in a standard, non-promotional, summary format by various online databases.

Dr Bale told PharmaTimes News Online that in order to boost the efficacy of the portal, a second stage of development has begun, with a primary focus on translating the site into different languages, with Japanese, Spanish, French and German currently being considered.

The growing transparency of clinical trial information should ultimately have a significant effect on the way studies are conducted and how the data is presented, Dr Bale said. In terms of the impact on the Industry, he believes that it can only be positive, as companies will be able to compare each other, giving rise to a higher quality of data.