Clinical trials are imperative in the research and development of medical interventions. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of robust moral guidelines underpinning global health practice. At this pivotal moment in epidemiological history, the methods of vaccine development and distribution can act to either buttress or dismantle the role that medical colonialism has previously played in clinical trials. Clinical trial results are vastly underreported, especially in Canada. Notably, pharmaceutical companies consistently outperform universities in reporting. At a time when concerted innovation and global collaboration are prerequisites to establishing equitable medical practices, clinical trial transparency is critical.
Student activists from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) are renewing their call for the public reporting of all trial results to 1) reduce the publication bias of only positive results, 2) reduce unnecessary research duplication, especially in the face of limited time and resources, 3) encourage global knowledge synthesis to meet the demand for rapid COVID-19 discoveries, 4) enable rare disease patients access to novel treatments, 5) fulfill the moral obligation to trial participants who agree to a trial’s risks under the assumption that their decision might benefit other patients, 6) reduce vaccine hesitancy, especially in the face of unprecedented development timescales, and 7) deliver public results for trials funded by the public. While COVID-19 reiterates the critical need for greater clinical trial transparency, the sudden spotlight on public and global health presents an opportunity to establish equitable research and development practices.