2016 Online - Gold


Charles Piller reported that researchers at leading medical institutions had routinely disregarded a law requiring public reporting of study results to the federal government’s ClinicalTrials.gov database, thereby depriving patients and doctors of information that would help them better compare the effectiveness and side effects of treatments for diseases such as advanced breast cancer. Piller found that four of the top 10 recipients of federal medical research funding from the National Institutes of Health were the worst offenders: Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, San Diego. While the federal government has the power to withhold grant funds or impose fines of up to $10,000 a day per trial for failure to report results to the database, Piller found it had not levied a single penalty. The NIH reported in February that researchers had significantly increased their public reporting of trial results during the two months after Piller’s story, with data visualizations by Natalia Bronshtein, was posted. An NIH official attributed part of the improvement to Piller’s investigation and also cited the agency’s own outreach and training efforts. Judge Guy Gugliotta, a freelancer and former science writer for The Washington Post, called Piller’s entry “superbly reported, hard-hitting journalism in the best tradition of public service.” Piller said the award for the STAT investigation is gratifying and lends “support for the idea that greater transparency is essential for evidence-based medicine and patient safety.”