Quality of descriptions of treatments in randomised controlled trials

Analysis of treatment descriptions, published in BMJ open, shows that for over half (57%) of the papers we reviewed, published treatment descriptions were not considered sufficient to allow replication.

This is fairly simple to fix, during the publication of randomized trials, but it shows an important issue that siginificantly limits uptake of interventions in practice.

The key messages are:

  • The majority of published trials in our study lacked important details describing the treatment required for healthcare professionals to undertake these treatments in practise.
  • Although the majority of problems were not picked up by peer reviewers and editors, when they were detected only about two-thirds were fixed before publication.
  • The incomplete treatment descriptions we found represent a substantial waste of the research budget, trial participants’ time and an opportunity cost for clinicians and patients.

Our conclusions are straightforward and state, ‘journals wanting to publish the research of use to practising healthcare professionals need to pay more attention to descriptions of treatments.’

Read the full paper at BMJ Open  

Sara Schroter, Paul Glasziou, Carl Heneghan Quality of descriptions of treatments: a review of published randomised controlled trials BMJ Open 2012;2:e001978 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001978