UN health agency speeds up access to latest data in battle against

In a bid to speed up the war on disease, especially among the poor and marginalized populations of developing countries, the United Nations health agency today announced a new initiative to facilitate free Internet access to the latest data on clinical trials aimed at prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. As of today all randomized controlled trials approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) ethics review board will be assigned an International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN), making it easier for the scientific community to keep up-to-date with current research. The initiative is a joint effort by the Geneva-based WHO and an independent publishing house called Current Controlled Trials (CCT) which is committed to providing immediate free access to peer reviewed biomedical research. An ISRCTN is a unique number providing a means of identifying and unambiguously tracking a trial throughout its life cycle. Information about trials that have received this number can be obtained from an online register maintained by CCT. “The ISRCTN Register is an important first step within a wider context of the new emphasis on the need to increase international access to and utilization of health-related knowledge,” said the Director of WHO’s Department of Research Policy and Cooperation, Tikki Pang. Randomized controlled trials are considered the best way to compare – in an unbiased manner – the effects of particular treatments and are one of the main sources of medical knowledge, but information about these trials is difficult to find because several trials may have the same title, one trial may be reported in several places under different titles, and many trials are never reported at all. Information is even more difficult to find about neglected diseases that disproportionately affect poor and marginalized populations where WHO supports and funds much of the research. But until now there had been no mechanism to make such data easily available to researchers, particularly those in developing countries most affected. In the first phase, all trials involving human reproduction have now been included in the ISRCTN Register. Randomised trials in the other major research areas that the WHO supports, such as infectious diseases, childhood diseases, vaccines, will be added shortly.