Observational databanks have inherent strengths and shortcomings. As in randomized controlled trials, poor design of these databanks can either exaggerate or reduce estimates of drug effectiveness and can limit generalizability. This commentary highlights selected aspects of study design, data collection and statistical analysis that can help overcome many of these inadequacies. An international metaRegister and a formal mechanism for standardizing and sharing drug data could help improve the utility of databanks. Medical journals have a vital role in enforcing a quality checklist that improves reporting.