The benefits and savings from publicly funded clinical trials of prescription drugs

Int J Health Serv. 2008;38(4):731-50. doi: 10.2190/HS.38.4.i.


The current system of financing for clinical drug trials creates numerous perverse incentives. Since the trials are typically performed or controlled by the company who owns the patent, it has enormous incentives to report positive findings and conceal results that indicate the drug might be ineffective or even harmful. In addition, the large patent rents earned by drug companies are justified by the need to recoup research costs, approximately half of which are attributable to clinical trials. This article outlines a system of publicly financed clinical trials under which all results are fully available to the public. The system would be financed by paying lower drug prices under the Medicare drug program and other public health care programs.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Bias
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / economics*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / ethics
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Drug Approval / economics
  • Drug Evaluation / economics*
  • Drug Industry*
  • Drugs, Investigational*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Financing, Government / methods*
  • Humans
  • Patents as Topic
  • Politics
  • Research Support as Topic / methods*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Drugs, Investigational