The design and conduct of clinical trials to limit missing data

Authors


Roderick J. Little, Department of Biostatistics, University of Michigan, 1415 Washington Hghts, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, U.S.A.

E-mail: rlittle@umich.edu

Abstract

This article summarizes recommendations on the design and conduct of clinical trials of a National Research Council study on missing data in clinical trials. Key findings of the study are that (a) substantial missing data is a serious problem that undermines the scientific credibility of causal conclusions from clinical trials; (b) the assumption that analysis methods can compensate for substantial missing data is not justified; hence (c) clinical trial design, including the choice of key causal estimands, the target population, and the length of the study, should include limiting missing data as one of its goals; (d) missing-data procedures should be discussed explicitly in the clinical trial protocol; (e) clinical trial conduct should take steps to limit the extent of missing data; (f) there is no universal method for handling missing data in the analysis of clinical trials – methods should be justified on the plausibility of the underlying scientific assumptions; and (g) when alternative assumptions are plausible, sensitivity analysis should be conducted to assess robustness of findings to these alternatives. This article focuses on the panel's recommendations on the design and conduct of clinical trials to limit missing data. A companion paper addresses the panel's findings on analysis methods. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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