Funds worth €3.5tr back Alltrials, but none promise to pull cash from drug firms that don't

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Investor backing puts transparency on pharma agenda says Alltrials
Investor backing puts transparency on pharma agenda says Alltrials

Related tags Pharmacology Finance

Investor backing puts transparency on the pharma agenda says SenseAboutScience, even though none of the funds pledging support for Alltrials have committed to pull investment from drug firms that disagree.

UK charity SenseAboutScience – which manages the campaign - announced this morning that investors who control over €3.5tr ($3.8tr) worth of assets support its call for all past and present trials to be registered and their full methods and summary results reported.

The group of 85 pension funds and asset managers – which was assembled by BNP Paribas Investment Partners in collaboration with AllTrials – have also started asking drug companies in which they invest to outline their trial transparency plans.

Alltrials co-founder Dr Ben Goldacre said: “This is a game changer. It sends a clear message to CEO's, boards, and other shareholders that they need to recognise that medicine and society have changed. Companies cannot expect any longer to routinely withhold the results of clinical trials on treatments taken by millions of people around the world. 

"Pharma is increasingly split, with many showing leadership on transparency, and some stuck in the past. These investment firms are showing clearly that they will reward good data, and best practice.

“You don't need to hide data to make money in medicine: in fact, quite the opposite is true. Medicine is a knowledge economy. You make money from trust, and good data. That's the clear message from €3.5trillion of investment funds.​” 

On the agenda

But while the funds – which include RobecoSAM, Aviva Investors and Boston Commons Asset Management - support Alltrials’ aims, none has committed to withdraw investment from drug companies that disagree according to campaign co-founder Sile Lane.

Lane told us: “They [the funds and managers] want to see these companies manage the potential risks associated with lack of full transparency.

“They do not want to see companies making the wrong headlines, seeing their drugs taken out of the market or being fined by regulators, authorities or involved in class actions such as the ones we have seen linked to minimising side effects​.”

Meaningless?

Lane rejected the idea that investors’ unwillingness to pull investment means their support for Alltrials is meaningless, instead arguing that it firmly fixes transparency as an issue for industry.

We’ve learnt from even the relatively small number of meetings we have had with companies that for many of them this is not on their agendas. Not surprising perhaps, since the large industry bodies denied for a long time that lack of transparency is a problem, and said that if it once was a problem, it’s now fixed.

She also suggested that, while there are regulations that cover transparency like the FDA Amendment Act in the US, the lack of proper enforcement means drug companies are not under pressure to be transparent.

This [the investor backing] is what will put it [transparency] on their agenda once and for all​” Lane said.

This view was echoed by a spokeswoman for RobecoSAM, who told us “we evaluate a companies’ performance on important sustainability issues and incorporate this work into our investment cases.The research we have done thus far does not support excluding companies simply for not raising their standards to those which we believe are necessary​.”

She added, however, that: “A company’s practices will impact our valuation of the company, as we believe increased reporting will create shared value for society which will benefit investors.

“All else being equal, we prefer the company that is leading in this area over one that is lagging​.”

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