The number of registered National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov decreased between 2006 through 2014; however, the number of industry-funded trials increased substantially, according to data culled from the Web site. This study appeared in JAMA (doi:10.1001/jama.2015.12206).

NIH and the pharmaceutical industry have been major funders of clinical trials. Pharmaceutical companies, in general, fund trials that test their own products, whereas NIH funding strategies are not commercially motivated.

Registration of trials became a requirement for publication in major journals in 2005. Stephan Ehrhardt, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues investigated trends in funding of trials using the NIH-built database, ClinicalTrials.gov, with a focus on NIH and industry funding. They downloaded data from the Web site, used the search term “interventional study,” and obtained counts of newly registered trials by funder type: “NIH,” “industry,” “other US federal agency,” or “all others (individuals, universities, organizations).”


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Reviewing data organized by first received date, the number of newly registered trials doubled from 9321 in 2006 to 18 400 in 2014. Industry-funded trials increased by 43% (1965); concurrently, NIH-funded trials decreased by 24% (328). During this period, relatively few trials were funded by other US federal agencies; however, funding in the “all others” category increased by 227% (7357).

In a random sample of 500 trials in the category of “all others,” most (353; 71%) did not have US­based funders. From 2006 through 2014, the total number of newly registered trials increased by 5410 (59%) and that of industry-funded trials increased by 758 (17%). The number of NIH-funded trials declined by 316 (27%).

The authors wrote that the decrease in NIH-funded trials may be the result of a decline in discretionary spending by the US federal government. “The 2014 NIH budget is 14% less than the 2006 budget (when adjusted for inflation). An expanding portfolio of NIH research with a flat budget may also have contributed to the decline in NIH-funded trials.”