Two small steps forward in the fight for open medical data

Originally posted on TED Blog:

In his recent TEDTalk, “What doctors don’t know about the drugs they prescribe,” Ben Goldacre sounded a warning about the vast numbers of pharmaceutical studies that go unpublished. “Positive findings are about twice as likely to be published as negative findings,” said Goldacre, noting that this is a big problem because it means doctors are prescribing pharmaceuticals without full knowledge of their side effects and overall efficacy.

However, Goldacre is excited about a hint of change displayed in this article from the British Medical Journal. In the editorial, BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee tips her hat to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for opening its vaults and allowing access to its trial data. The system is not perfect — all requests must travel through a panel and be deemed “a reasonable scientific question” before data will be released — but it is a step forward. At the same time, Godlee…

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