Don’t wait for the pharmaceutical industry to address transparency or the issue of data mining, John Abramson, MD, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, says.

Companies make money on these products, then they pay legal fees and fines for off-label marketing that is a small percentage of the profits, he says. They have no incentive to provide real-time access to data or to promote greater oversight or transparency in scientific research, he contends.

“When we turn over clinical research to private interests, it becomes about producing knowledge that generates the greatest profits,” he says. “Clinical trial data should be treated in society as a public and not a private good, regardless of who funds it.”

However, he notes, it is up to physicians to demand transparency. “We need a grassroots movement where we all get together and say that we need [transparency] to practice quality medicine. This demand needs to come from the ground up, not the top down.”

Abramson also encourages practitioners and other stakeholders to work with their national organizations to address these issues with regulatory officials and lawmakers. He says the value of national initiatives, such as the ABIM Foundation’s Choosing Wisely campaign, which promotes independent clinical evidence and best practice data about tests and interventions that may be outdated, inappropriate, or even harmful for patients.

“Such national partnerships create a counterbalance to the commercial push regarding a particular intervention.”