June 27, 2013

Guide to reporting clinical trials

From the World Conference of Science Journalists, via @roobina (Ruth Francis), ten tweets on reporting clinical trials

  1. Was this #trial registered before it began? If not then check for rigged design, or hidden negative results on similar trials.
  2. Is primary outcome reported in paper the same as primary outcome spec in protocol? If no report maybe deeply flawed.
  3. Look for other trials by co or group, or on treatment, on registries to see if it represents cherry picked finding
  4. ALWAYS mention who funded the trial. Do any of ethics committee people have some interest with the funding company
  5. Will country where work is done benefit? Will drug be available at lower cost? Is disorder or disease a problem there
  6. How many patients were on the trial, and how many were in each arm?
  7. What was being compared (drug vs placebo? Drug vs standard care? Drug with no control arm?
  8. Be precise about people/patient who benefited – advanced disease, a particular form of a disease?
  9. Report natural frequencies: “13 people per 10000 experienced x”, rather than “1.3% of people experienced x”
  10. NO relative risks. Paint findings clearly: improved survival by 3%: BAD. Ppl lived 2 months longer on average: GOOD

Who says you can’t say anything useful in 140 characters?


Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


  • avatar
    Matthew Zack

    13 people per 10,000 experienced X = 0.13% of people experienced X, not 1.3%.

    4 years ago

    • avatar
      Thomas Lumley

      Yep. Mistake in the original, not my typing.

      4 years ago