updated 1/10/2007 5:32:48 PM ET 2007-01-10T22:32:48

Drug companies are doing a much better job of supplying key information about research they are doing since medical journals started pressuring them to enter studies in a government registry.

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The federal registry began operating in 2000 but saw little industry participation until late 2004. That was when the 11 members of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors said they would publish only studies registered early on, in part to keep drug companies from suppressing the results of experiments that did not turn out the way they wanted.

New England Journal of Medicine editor in chief Dr. Jeffrey Drazen and Dr. Deborah Zarin of the National Library of Medicine, which operates the registry, reported on its progress in an editorial in Thursday’s issue of the journal.

Only 8 percent of the 2,983 studies that drugmakers added to the registry last year failed to describe the outcomes being measured in the experiment, such as cholesterol levels or deaths. That was down from 26 percent of studies registered in the prior years.

Meanwhile, none of the 2006 filings omitted the name of the treatment being tested, as did a small number of trials registered before 2006, Drazen and Zarin wrote.

The pharmaceutical industry has sometimes withheld such information in the past, calling it commercially sensitive.

“Although more can be done, this improvement in registration quality is to be praised,” Drazen and Zarin wrote.

Previously, they reported in the journal that drugmakers were still leaving out key details in the period from May through October 2005 — a month after the journals’ new mandate took effect.

At the time, they noted Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, was the worst at reporting names in its new listings, leaving out more than 6 percent. Last year, none of the 115 trials it registered left out the treatment or outcome being tested.

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