Objective This paper traces the development of the Clinical Trial Registry-India (CTRI) against the backdrop of the inequities in healthcare and the limitations in the design, conduct, regulation, oversight and reporting of clinical trials in India. It describes the scope and goals of the CTRI, the data elements it seeks and the process of registering clinical trials. It reports progress in trial registration in India and discusses the challenges in ensuring that healthcare decisions are informed by all the evidence.
Methods A descriptive survey of developments in clinical trial registration in India from publications in the Indian medical literature supplemented by firsthand knowledge of these developments and an evaluation of how well clinical trials registered in the CTRI up to 10 January, 2009 comply with the requirements of the CTRI and the World Health Organization's International Clinical Trial Registry (WHO ICTRP).
Results Considerable inequities exist within the Indian health system. Deficiencies in healthcare provision and uneven regulation of, and access to, affordable healthcare co-exists with a large private health system of uneven quality. India is now a preferred destination for outsourced clinical trials but is plagued by poor ethical oversight of the many trial sites and scant information of their existence. The CTRI's vision of conforming to international requirements for transparency and accountability but also using trial registration as a means of improving trial design, conduct and reporting led to the selection of registry-specific dataset items in addition to those endorsed by the WHO ICTRP. Compliance with these requirements is good for the trials currently registered but these trials represent only a fraction of the trials in progress in India.
Conclusion Prospective trial registration is a reality in India. The challenges facing the CTRI include better engagement with key stakeholders to ensure increased prospective registration of clinical trials and utilization of existing legislative opportunities to complement these efforts.