Secular changes in the quality of published randomized clinical trials in rheumatology

Authors


Abstract

Objective

To assess the quality of published randomized clinical trials (RCTs) in rheumatology and to determine whether there has been improvement in quality between 2 time periods, 1987–1988 and 1997–1998.

Methods

Using MEDLINE and a hand search of selected rheumatology journals, we identified RCTs of adult rheumatic diseases published in English in 1987–1988 or 1997–1998. We examined trial quality with an expanded version of the Jadad scale, which assesses the adequacy of reported random sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding, and analysis. All trials were read by 1 reviewer, with prior standardization using a random sample read by 2 reviewers. We also evaluated “high”- versus “low”-impact journals based on citation index.

Results

Two hundred forty RCTs (1987–1988 119 RCTs, 1997–1998 121 RCTs) were assessed. Results showed improvement in the quality of the trials, but the rates of reported random sequence generation, allocation concealment, power, and intent-to-treat analyses were persistently low. Low rates of reports of random sequence generation, allocation concealment, and intent-to-treat analyses were present even in the high-impact journals.

Conclusion

There has been improvement in the quality of reporting of RCTs in rheumatology between 1987–1988 and 1997–1998. However, methodologic problems such as lack of allocation concealment, inadequate random sequence generation, lack of reporting of power, and lack of intent-to-treat analyses remain common. Many of these problems are established sources of bias in RCTs and are easily rectifiable.

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