Johnson & Johnson to Share Drug Data for Further Research

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In collaboration with Yale University’s Open Data Access Project, also known as the YODA project, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) will begin sharing data from its clinical trials with academics in a move that researchers at YODA hope will encourage other companies to embrace transparency, Bloomberg reports.

Johnson & Johnson’s collaboration with the university’s project means that YODA can release years of data from J&J’s drug findings to outside researchers. The YODA project will serve as an independent third party “to review requests from investigators and physicians seeking access to clinical trials data,” according to Forbes.

Harlan Krumholz, the researcher behind the YODA project, says that the program could be “game-changing.” “There are great insights that are residing within these data,” he said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. Krumholz believes analyzing the data behind a drug’s clinical trials can help researchers better understand how drugs work, as well as what their risks and benefits are.

The YODA project is part of an “open science” or “open access” movement in the industry. Since 1997, all U.S. clinical trials have to be registered, but that hasn’t stopped companies from covering up and masking embarrassing failures, and drug makers still have a lot of control over which tests they decide to disclose to the public. Hiding failures or disappointments, advocacy groups argue, makes it more difficult to ensure patient safety.

Krumholz hopes that Johnson & Johnson’s move toward better transparency may encourage other companies to do the same — Johnson & Johnson is currently the largest producer of health care products in the world, and Krumholz said to Bloomberg that, as it stands, many companies he has approached have been “reluctant to to give up control.” Johnson & Johnson’s move may just exert enough pressure to convince rival companies to follow in its footsteps.

Johnson & Johnson’s chief medical officer, Joanne Waldstreicher, said of the new collaboration in a press release, “We have nothing to hide and if new findings come out — positive or negative — all the better.”

But the new collaboration is far from allowing a kind of data free-for-all. In order for researchers to gain access to Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trial data, researchers must first apply to the YODA program and from there, a board composed of non-J&J advisers will review the requests and decide whether to release the information.

So far, Johnson & Johnson is the largest company to agree to such an arrangement. Although other companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), have also agreed to share clinical trial data, they have not arranged for an independent third party like YODA to review requests for data, and the extent of their commitment to transparency is unclear. Johnson & Johnson has become the first company to agree to such a substantial commitment, Forbes reports.

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