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      Randomised trials with provision for early stopping for benefit (or harm): The impact on the estimated treatment effect

      1 , 1 , 2 , 1 , 3 , 4 , 5
      Statistics in Medicine
      Wiley

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          Prevalence, characteristics, and publication of discontinued randomized trials.

          The discontinuation of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) raises ethical concerns and often wastes scarce research resources. The epidemiology of discontinued RCTs, however, remains unclear. To determine the prevalence, characteristics, and publication history of discontinued RCTs and to investigate factors associated with RCT discontinuation due to poor recruitment and with nonpublication. Retrospective cohort of RCTs based on archived protocols approved by 6 research ethics committees in Switzerland, Germany, and Canada between 2000 and 2003. We recorded trial characteristics and planned recruitment from included protocols. Last follow-up of RCTs was April 27, 2013. Completion status, reported reasons for discontinuation, and publication status of RCTs as determined by correspondence with the research ethics committees, literature searches, and investigator surveys. After a median follow-up of 11.6 years (range, 8.8-12.6 years), 253 of 1017 included RCTs were discontinued (24.9% [95% CI, 22.3%-27.6%]). Only 96 of 253 discontinuations (37.9% [95% CI, 32.0%-44.3%]) were reported to ethics committees. The most frequent reason for discontinuation was poor recruitment (101/1017; 9.9% [95% CI, 8.2%-12.0%]). In multivariable analysis, industry sponsorship vs investigator sponsorship (8.4% vs 26.5%; odds ratio [OR], 0.25 [95% CI, 0.15-0.43]; P < .001) and a larger planned sample size in increments of 100 (-0.7%; OR, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.92-1.00]; P = .04) were associated with lower rates of discontinuation due to poor recruitment. Discontinued trials were more likely to remain unpublished than completed trials (55.1% vs 33.6%; OR, 3.19 [95% CI, 2.29-4.43]; P < .001). In this sample of trials based on RCT protocols from 6 research ethics committees, discontinuation was common, with poor recruitment being the most frequently reported reason. Greater efforts are needed to ensure the reporting of trial discontinuation to research ethics committees and the publication of results of discontinued trials.
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            Discrepancies in sample size calculations and data analyses reported in randomised trials: comparison of publications with protocols

            Objective To evaluate how often sample size calculations and methods of statistical analysis are pre-specified or changed in randomised trials. Design Retrospective cohort study. Data source Protocols and journal publications of published randomised parallel group trials initially approved in 1994-5 by the scientific-ethics committees for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, Denmark (n=70). Main outcome measure Proportion of protocols and publications that did not provide key information about sample size calculations and statistical methods; proportion of trials with discrepancies between information presented in the protocol and the publication. Results Only 11/62 trials described existing sample size calculations fully and consistently in both the protocol and the publication. The method of handling protocol deviations was described in 37 protocols and 43 publications. The method of handling missing data was described in 16 protocols and 49 publications. 39/49 protocols and 42/43 publications reported the statistical test used to analyse primary outcome measures. Unacknowledged discrepancies between protocols and publications were found for sample size calculations (18/34 trials), methods of handling protocol deviations (19/43) and missing data (39/49), primary outcome analyses (25/42), subgroup analyses (25/25), and adjusted analyses (23/28). Interim analyses were described in 13 protocols but mentioned in only five corresponding publications. Conclusion When reported in publications, sample size calculations and statistical methods were often explicitly discrepant with the protocol or not pre-specified. Such amendments were rarely acknowledged in the trial publication. The reliability of trial reports cannot be assessed without having access to the full protocols.
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              Ethical issues in stopping randomized trials early because of apparent benefit.

              Stopping randomized trials early because of an apparent benefit is becoming more common. To protect and promote the interests of trial participants, investigators may feel obligated to stop a trial early because of the apparent benefit of a study treatment (compared with placebo or other treatment). There are, however, serious ethical problems with doing so. Truncated trials systematically overestimate treatment effects; in cases where the number of accrued outcome events is small, the overestimation may be very large. Generating seriously inflated estimates of treatment effect violates the ethical research requirement of scientific validity. Subsequent use of inflated estimates to inform clinical decision making and practice guidelines violates the ethical requirements of social value and a favorable risk-benefit ratio. Researchers should ensure that a large number of outcome events accrues before stopping a trial and then continue recruitment to assess whether positive trends continue. This can balance the need to protect research participants with the ethical requirements of scientific validity, social value, and a favorable risk-benefit ratio.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Statistics in Medicine
                Statistics in Medicine
                Wiley
                0277-6715
                1097-0258
                March 13 2019
                June 30 2019
                March 19 2019
                June 30 2019
                : 38
                : 14
                : 2524-2543
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and ImpactMcMaster University Hamilton Canada
                [2 ]Department of Neonatology, University Hospital ZurichUniversity of Zurich Zürich Switzerland
                [3 ]Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity Hospital Basel Basel Switzerland
                [4 ]Ottawa Hospital Research InstituteUniversity of Ottawa Ottawa Canada
                [5 ]Mount Sinai Hospital Toronto Canada
                Article
                10.1002/sim.8142
                f11cb32c-a6ff-4755-bb15-a2ebec4fd04d
                © 2019

                http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/termsAndConditions#vor

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1


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