Blinded Outcome Assessment Was Infrequently Used and Poorly Reported in Open Trials.
e0131926 - ?
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OBJECTIVE: Unblinded outcome assessment can lead to biased estimates of treatment effect in randomised trials. We reviewed published trials to assess how often blinded assessment is used, and whether its use varies according to the type of outcome or assessor. DESIGN AND SETTING: A review of parallel group, individually randomised phase III trials published in four general medical journals (BMJ, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine) in 2010. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Whether assessment of the primary outcome was blinded, and whether this differed according to outcome or assessor type. RESULTS: We identified 258 eligible trials. Of these, 106 (41%) were reported as double-blind, and 152 (59%) as partially or fully open-label (that is, they included some groups who were unblinded, such as patients, those delivering the intervention, or those in charge of medical care). Of the 152 open trials, 125 required outcome assessment. Of these 125 trials, only 26% stated that outcome assessment was blinded; 51% gave no information on whether assessment was blinded or not. Furthermore, 18% of trials did not state who performed the assessment. The choice of outcome type (e.g. instrument measured, rated, or naturally occurring event) did not appear to influence whether blinded assessment was performed (range 24-32% for the most common outcome types). However, the choice of outcome assessor did influence blinding; independent assessors were blinded much more frequently (71%) than participant (5%) or physician (24%) assessors. Despite this, open trials did not use independent assessors any more frequently than double-blind trials (17% vs. 18% respectively). CONCLUSIONS: Blinding of outcome assessors is infrequently used and poorly reported. Increased use of independent assessors could increase the frequency of blinded assessment.
AuthorsKahan, BC; Rehal, S; Cro, S
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