Devereaux said that easing up on the "enormous bureaucracy" involved in large trials could encourage more of them, and get them done with more efficiency and less cost. "We have endless regulations," he said, "and many of them are of questionable benefit."
Smaller trials are still important, Devereaux said, but they are not always necessary. If a particularly promising treatment has proven safe in initial studies, it could move right into a larger, more definitive trial, he said.
Lauer said that as far as the heart, lung and blood institute's role, "our main leverage is in funding." But, he added, the agency can also act as a "think tank" to bring together the different groups involved in running and publishing clinical trials.
"There are a lot of players in this who can come together to talk," Lauer said. "We have a problem, but there's no one party to blame."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains how clinical trials work.
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