PMCC PMCC

Search tips
Search criteria

Advanced
Results 1-25 (1304950)

Clipboard (0)
None

Related Articles

1.  Publication of Clinical Trials Supporting Successful New Drug Applications: A Literature Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(9):e191.
Background
The United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new drugs based on sponsor-submitted clinical trials. The publication status of these trials in the medical literature and factors associated with publication have not been evaluated. We sought to determine the proportion of trials submitted to the FDA in support of newly approved drugs that are published in biomedical journals that a typical clinician, consumer, or policy maker living in the US would reasonably search.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort study of trials supporting new drugs approved between 1998 and 2000, as described in FDA medical and statistical review documents and the FDA approved drug label. We determined publication status and time from approval to full publication in the medical literature at 2 and 5 y by searching PubMed and other databases through 01 August 2006. We then evaluated trial characteristics associated with publication. We identified 909 trials supporting 90 approved drugs in the FDA reviews, of which 43% (394/909) were published. Among the subset of trials described in the FDA-approved drug label and classified as “pivotal trials” for our analysis, 76% (257/340) were published. In multivariable logistic regression for all trials 5 y postapproval, likelihood of publication correlated with statistically significant results (odds ratio [OR] 3.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.78–5.17); larger sample sizes (OR 1.33 per 2-fold increase in sample size, 95% CI 1.17–1.52); and pivotal status (OR 5.31, 95% CI 3.30–8.55). In multivariable logistic regression for only the pivotal trials 5 y postapproval, likelihood of publication correlated with statistically significant results (OR 2.96, 95% CI 1.24–7.06) and larger sample sizes (OR 1.47 per 2-fold increase in sample size, 95% CI 1.15–1.88). Statistically significant results and larger sample sizes were also predictive of publication at 2 y postapproval and in multivariable Cox proportional models for all trials and the subset of pivotal trials.
Conclusions
Over half of all supporting trials for FDA-approved drugs remained unpublished ≥ 5 y after approval. Pivotal trials and trials with statistically significant results and larger sample sizes are more likely to be published. Selective reporting of trial results exists for commonly marketed drugs. Our data provide a baseline for evaluating publication bias as the new FDA Amendments Act comes into force mandating basic results reporting of clinical trials.
Ida Sim and colleagues investigate the publication status and publication bias of trials submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a wide variety of approved drugs.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Before a new drug becomes available for the treatment of a specific human disease, its benefits and harms are carefully studied, first in the laboratory and in animals, and then in several types of clinical trials. In the most important of these trials—so-called “pivotal” clinical trials—the efficacy and safety of the new drug and of a standard treatment are compared by giving groups of patients the different treatments and measuring several predefined “outcomes.” These outcomes indicate whether the new drug is more effective than the standard treatment and whether it has any other effects on the patients' health and daily life. All this information is then submitted by the sponsor of the new drug (usually a pharmaceutical company) to the government body responsible for drug approval—in the US, this is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Why Was This Study Done?
After a drug receives FDA approval, information about the clinical trials supporting the FDA's decision are included in the FDA “Summary Basis of Approval” and/or on the drug label. In addition, some clinical trials are described in medical journals. Ideally, all the clinical information that leads to a drug's approval should be publicly available to help clinicians make informed decisions about how to treat their patients. A full-length publication in a medical journal is the primary way that clinical trial results are communicated to the scientific community and the public. Unfortunately, drug sponsors sometimes publish the results only of trials where their drug performed well; as a consequence, trials where the drug did no better than the standard treatment or where it had unwanted side effects remain unpublished. Publication bias like this provides an inaccurate picture of a drug's efficacy and safety relative to other therapies and may lead to excessive prescribing of newer, more expensive (but not necessarily more effective) treatments. In this study, the researchers investigate whether selective trial reporting is common by evaluating the publication status of trials submitted to the FDA for a wide variety of approved drugs. They also ask which factors affect a trial's chances of publication.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 90 drugs approved by the FDA between 1998 and 2000 by searching the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Web site. From the Summary Basis of Approval for each drug, they identified 909 clinical trials undertaken to support these approvals. They then searched the published medical literature up to mid-2006 to determine if and when the results of each trial were published. Although 76% of the pivotal trials had appeared in medical journals, usually within 3 years of FDA approval, only 43% of all of the submitted trials had been published. Among all the trials, those with statistically significant results were nearly twice as likely to have been published as those without statistically significant results, and pivotal trials were three times more likely to have been published as nonpivotal trials, 5 years postapproval. In addition, a larger sample size increased the likelihood of publication. Having statistically significant results and larger sample sizes also increased the likelihood of publication of the pivotal trials.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the search methods used in this study may have missed some publications, these findings suggest that more than half the clinical trials undertaken to support drug approval remain unpublished 5 years or more after FDA approval. They also reveal selective reporting of results. For example, they show that a pivotal trial in which the new drug does no better than an old drug is less likely to be published than one where the new drug is more effective, a publication bias that could establish an inappropriately favorable record for the new drug in the medical literature. Importantly, these findings provide a baseline for monitoring the effects of the FDA Amendments Act 2007, which was introduced to improve the accuracy and completeness of drug trial reporting. Under this Act, all trials supporting FDA-approved drugs must be registered when they start, and the summary results of all the outcomes declared at trial registration as well as specific details about the trial protocol must be publicly posted within a year of drug approval on the US National Institutes of Health clinical trials site.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191.
PLoS Medicine recently published an editorial discussing the FDA Amendment Act and what it means for medical journals: The PLoS Medicine Editors (2008) Next Stop, Don't Block the Doors: Opening Up Access to Clinical Trials Results. PLoS Med 5(7): e160
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health care professionals; detailed information about the process by which drugs are approved is on the Web site of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (in English and Spanish)
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is working toward international norms and standards for reporting the findings of clinical trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191
PMCID: PMC2553819  PMID: 18816163
2.  Inadequate Dissemination of Phase I Trials: A Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(2):e1000034.
Background
Drug development is ideally a logical sequence in which information from small early studies (Phase I) is subsequently used to inform and plan larger, more definitive studies (Phases II–IV). Phase I trials are unique because they generally provide the first evaluation of new drugs in humans. The conduct and dissemination of Phase I trials have not previously been empirically evaluated. Our objective was to describe the initiation, completion, and publication of Phase I trials in comparison with Phase II–IV trials.
Methods and Findings
We reviewed a cohort of all protocols approved by a sample of ethics committees in France from January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994. The comparison of 140 Phase I trials with 304 Phase II–IV trials, showed that Phase I studies were more likely to be initiated (133/140 [95%] versus 269/304 [88%]), more likely to be completed (127/133 [95%] versus 218/269 [81%]), and more likely to produce confirmatory results (71/83 [86%] versus 125/175 [71%]) than Phase II–IV trials. Publication was less frequent for Phase I studies (21/127 [17%] versus 93/218 [43%]), even if only accounting for studies providing confirmatory results (18/71 [25%] versus 79/125 [63%]).
Conclusions
The initiation, completion, and publications of Phase I trials are different from those of other studies. Moreover, the results of these trials should be published in order to ensure the integrity of the overall body of scientific knowledge, and ultimately the safety of future trial participants and patients.
François Chapuis and colleagues examine a cohort of clinical trial protocols approved by French ethics committees, and show that Phase I trials are less frequently published than other types of trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Before a new drug is used to treat patients, its benefits and harms have to be carefully investigated in clinical trials—studies that investigate the drug's effects on people. Because giving any new drug to people is potentially dangerous, drugs are first tested in a short “Phase I” trial in which a few people (usually healthy volunteers) are given doses of the drug likely to have a therapeutic effect. A Phase I trial evaluates the safety and tolerability of the drug and investigates how the human body handles the drug. It may also provide some information about the drug's efficacy that can guide the design of later trials. The next stage of clinical drug development is a Phase II trial in which the therapeutic efficacy of the drug is investigated by giving more patients and volunteers different doses of the drug. Finally, several large Phase III trials are undertaken to confirm the evidence collected in the Phase II trial about the drug's efficacy and safety. If the Phase III trials are successful, the drug will receive official marketing approval. In some cases, this approval requires Phase IV (postapproval) trials to be done to optimize the drug's use in clinical practice.
Why Was This Study Done?
In an ideal world, the results of all clinical trials on new drugs would be published in medical journals so that doctors and patients could make fully informed decisions about the treatments available to them. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and, for example, it is well known that the results of Phase III trials in which a new drug outperforms a standard treatment are more likely to be published than those in which the new drug performs badly or has unwanted side effects (an example of “publication bias”). But what about the results of Phase I trials? These need to be widely disseminated so that researchers can avoid unknowingly exposing people to potentially dangerous new drugs after similar drugs have caused adverse side effects. However, drug companies are often reluctant to disclose information on early phase trials. In this study, the researchers ask whether the dissemination of the results of Phase I trials is adequate.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 667 drug trial protocols approved in 1994 by 25 French research ethics committees (independent panels of experts that ensure that the rights, safety, and well-being of trial participants are protected). In 2001, questionnaires were mailed to each trial's principal investigator asking whether the trial had been started and completed and whether its results had been published in a medical journal or otherwise disseminated (for example, by presentation at a scientific meeting). 140 questionnaires for Phase I trials and 304 for Phase II–IV trials were returned and analyzed by the investigators. They found that Phase I trials were more likely to have been started and to have been completed than Phase II–IV trials. The results of 86% of the Phase I studies matched the researchers' expectations, but the study hypothesis was confirmed in only 71% of the Phase II–IV trials. Finally, the results of 17% of the Phase I studies were published in scientific journals compared to 43% of the Phase II–IV studies. About half of the Phase I study results were not disseminated in any form.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the fate of Phase I trials is different from that of other clinical trials and that there is inadequate dissemination of the results of these early trials. These findings may not be generalizable to other countries and may be affected by the poor questionnaire response rate. Nevertheless, they suggest that steps need to be taken to ensure that the results of Phase I studies are more widely disseminated. Recent calls by the World Health Organization and other bodies for mandatory preregistration in trial registries of all Phase I trials as well as all Phase II–IV trials should improve the situation by providing basic information about Phase I trials whose results are not published in full elsewhere.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000034.
Two recent research articles published in PLoS Medicine—by Ida Sim and colleagues (PLoS Med e191) and by Lisa Bero and colleagues (PLoS Med e217)—investigate publication bias in Phase III trials
The ClinicalTrials.gov Web site provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration (the body that approves drugs in the USA) Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is working toward setting international norms and standards for the reporting of clinical trials (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000034
PMCID: PMC2642878  PMID: 19226185
3.  Facilitating the Recruitment of Minority Ethnic People into Research: Qualitative Case Study of South Asians and Asthma 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000148.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report on a qualitative study in the US and the UK to investigate ways to bolster recruitment of South Asians into asthma studies, including making inclusion of diverse populations mandatory.
Background
There is international interest in enhancing recruitment of minority ethnic people into research, particularly in disease areas with substantial ethnic inequalities. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that UK South Asians are at three times increased risk of hospitalisation for asthma when compared to white Europeans. US asthma trials are far more likely to report enrolling minority ethnic people into studies than those conducted in Europe. We investigated approaches to bolster recruitment of South Asians into UK asthma studies through qualitative research with US and UK researchers, and UK community leaders.
Methods and Findings
Interviews were conducted with 36 researchers (19 UK and 17 US) from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and ten community leaders from a range of ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds, followed by self-completion questionnaires. Interviews were digitally recorded, translated where necessary, and transcribed. The Framework approach was used for analysis. Barriers to ethnic minority participation revolved around five key themes: (i) researchers' own attitudes, which ranged from empathy to antipathy to (in a minority of cases) misgivings about the scientific importance of the question under study; (ii) stereotypes and prejudices about the difficulties in engaging with minority ethnic populations; (iii) the logistical challenges posed by language, cultural differences, and research costs set against the need to demonstrate value for money; (iv) the unique contexts of the two countries; and (v) poorly developed understanding amongst some minority ethnic leaders of what research entails and aims to achieve. US researchers were considerably more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities, which appeared to a large extent to reflect the longer-term impact of the National Institutes of Health's requirement to include minority ethnic people.
Conclusions
Most researchers and community leaders view the broadening of participation in research as important and are reasonably optimistic about the feasibility of recruiting South Asians into asthma studies provided that the barriers can be overcome. Suggested strategies for improving recruitment in the UK included a considerably improved support structure to provide academics with essential contextual information (e.g., languages of particular importance and contact with local gatekeepers), and the need to ensure that care is taken to engage with the minority ethnic communities in ways that are both culturally appropriate and sustainable; ensuring reciprocal benefits was seen as one key way of avoiding gatekeeper fatigue. Although voluntary measures to encourage researchers may have some impact, greater impact might be achieved if UK funding bodies followed the lead of the US National Institutes of Health requiring recruitment of ethnic minorities. Such a move is, however, likely in the short- to medium-term, to prove unpopular with many UK academics because of the added “hassle” factor in engaging with more diverse populations than many have hitherto been accustomed to.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In an ideal world, everyone would have the same access to health care and the same health outcomes (responses to health interventions). However, health inequalities—gaps in health care and in health between different parts of the population—exist in many countries. In particular, people belonging to ethnic minorities in the UK, the US, and elsewhere have poorer health outcomes for several conditions than people belonging to the ethnic majority (ethnicity is defined by social characteristics such as cultural tradition or national origin). For example, in the UK, people whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent (also known as South Asians and comprising in the main of people of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi origin) are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital for asthma as white Europeans. The reasons underpinning ethnic health inequalities are complex. Some inequalities may reflect intrinsic differences between groups of people—some ethnic minorities may inherit genes that alter their susceptibility to a specific disease. Other ethnic health inequalities may arise because of differences in socioeconomic status or because different cultural traditions affect the uptake of health care services.
Why Was This Study Done?
Minority ethnic groups are often under-represented in health research, which could limit the generalizability of research findings. That is, an asthma treatment that works well in a trial where all the participants are white Europeans might not be suitable for South Asians. Clinicians might nevertheless use the treatment in all their patients irrespective of their ethnicity and thus inadvertently increase ethnic health inequality. So, how can ethnic minorities be encouraged to enroll into research studies? In this qualitative study, the investigators try to answer this question by talking to US and UK asthma researchers and UK community leaders about how they feel about enrolling ethnic minorities into research studies. The investigators chose to compare the feelings of US and UK asthma researchers because minority ethnic people are more likely to enroll into US asthma studies than into UK studies, possibly because the US National Institute of Health's (NIH) Revitalization Act 1993 mandates that all NIH-funded clinical research must include people from ethnic minority groups; there is no similar mandatory policy in the UK.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The investigators interviewed 16 UK and 17 US asthma researchers and three UK social researchers with experience of working with ethnic minorities. They also interviewed ten community leaders from diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds. They then analyzed the interviews using the “Framework” approach, an analytical method in which qualitative data are classified and organized according to key themes and then interpreted. By comparing the data from the UK and US researchers, the investigators identified several barriers to ethnic minority participation in health research including: the attitudes of researchers towards the scientific importance of recruiting ethnic minority people into health research studies; prejudices about the difficulties of including ethnic minorities in health research; and the logistical challenges posed by language and cultural differences. In general, the US researchers were more positive than their UK counterparts about the importance and logistics of including ethnic minorities in health research. Finally, the investigators found that some community leaders had a poor understanding of what research entails and about its aims.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a large gap between US and UK researchers in terms of policy, attitudes, practices, and experiences in relation to including ethnic minorities in asthma research. However, they also suggest that most UK researchers and community leaders believe that it is both important and feasible to increase the participation of South Asians in asthma studies. Although some of these findings may have been affected by the study participants sometimes feeling obliged to give “politically correct” answers, these findings are likely to be generalizable to other diseases and to other parts of Europe. Given their findings, the researchers warn that a voluntary code of practice that encourages the recruitment of ethnic minority people into health research studies is unlikely to be successful. Instead, they suggest, the best way to increase the representation of ethnic minority people in health research in the UK might be to follow the US lead and introduce a policy that requires their inclusion in such research.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000148.
Families USA, a US nonprofit organization that campaigns for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, has information about many aspects of minority health in the US, including an interactive game about minority health issues
The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a section on minority health
The UK Department of Health provides information on health inequalities and a recent report on the experiences of patients in Black and minority ethnic groups
The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology also has a short article on ethnicity and health
Information on the NIH Revitalization Act 1993 is available
NHS Evidences Ethnicity and Health has a variety of policy, clinical, and research resources on ethnicity and health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000148
PMCID: PMC2752116  PMID: 19823568
4.  The Effectiveness of Mobile-Health Technologies to Improve Health Care Service Delivery Processes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001363.
Caroline Free and colleagues systematically review controlled trials of mobile technology interventions to improve health care delivery processes and show that current interventions give only modest benefits and that high-quality trials measuring clinical outcomes are needed.
Background
Mobile health interventions could have beneficial effects on health care delivery processes. We aimed to conduct a systematic review of controlled trials of mobile technology interventions to improve health care delivery processes.
Methods and Findings
We searched for all controlled trials of mobile technology based health interventions using MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Global Health, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, UK NHS HTA (Jan 1990–Sept 2010). Two authors independently extracted data on allocation concealment, allocation sequence, blinding, completeness of follow-up, and measures of effect. We calculated effect estimates and we used random effects meta-analysis to give pooled estimates.
We identified 42 trials. None of the trials had low risk of bias. Seven trials of health care provider support reported 25 outcomes regarding appropriate disease management, of which 11 showed statistically significant benefits. One trial reported a statistically significant improvement in nurse/surgeon communication using mobile phones. Two trials reported statistically significant reductions in correct diagnoses using mobile technology photos compared to gold standard. The pooled effect on appointment attendance using text message (short message service or SMS) reminders versus no reminder was increased, with a relative risk (RR) of 1.06 (95% CI 1.05–1.07, I2 = 6%). The pooled effects on the number of cancelled appointments was not significantly increased RR 1.08 (95% CI 0.89–1.30). There was no difference in attendance using SMS reminders versus other reminders (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.94–1.02, respectively). To address the limitation of the older search, we also reviewed more recent literature.
Conclusions
The results for health care provider support interventions on diagnosis and management outcomes are generally consistent with modest benefits. Trials using mobile technology-based photos reported reductions in correct diagnoses when compared to the gold standard. SMS appointment reminders have modest benefits and may be appropriate for implementation. High quality trials measuring clinical outcomes are needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
Over the past few decades, computing and communication technologies have changed dramatically. Bulky, slow computers have been replaced by portable devices that can complete increasingly complex tasks in less and less time. Similarly, landlines have been replaced by mobile phones and other mobile communication technologies that can connect people anytime and anywhere, and that can transmit text messages (short message service; SMS), photographs, and data at the touch of a button. These advances have led to the development of mobile-health (mHealth)—the use of mobile computing and communication technologies in health care and public health. mHealth has many applications. It can be used to facilitate data collection and to encourage health-care consumers to adopt healthy lifestyles or to self-manage chronic conditions. It can also be used to improve health-care service delivery processes by targeting health-care providers or communication between these providers and their patients. So, for example, mobile technologies can be used to provide clinical management support in settings where there are no specialist clinicians, and they can be used to send patients test results and timely reminders of appointments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many experts believe that mHealth interventions could greatly improve health-care delivery processes, particularly in resource-poor settings. The results of several controlled trials (studies that compare the outcomes of people who do or do not receive an intervention) of mHealth interventions designed to improve health-care delivery processes have been published. However, these data have not been comprehensively reviewed, and the effectiveness of this type of mHealth intervention has not been quantified. Here, the researchers rectify this situation by undertaking a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials of mobile technology-based interventions designed to improve health-care service delivery processes. A systematic review is a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that is used to pool the results of several independent studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 42 controlled trials that investigated mobile technology-based interventions designed to improve health-care service delivery processes. None of the trials were of high quality—many had methodological problems likely to affect the accuracy of their findings—and nearly all were undertaken in high-income countries. Thirty-two of the trials tested interventions directed at health-care providers. Of these trials, seven investigated interventions providing health-care provider education, 18 investigated interventions supporting clinical diagnosis and treatment, and seven investigated interventions to facilitate communication between health-care providers. Several of the trials reported that the tested intervention led to statistically significant improvements (improvements unlikely to have happened by chance) in outcomes related to disease management. However, two trials that used mobile phones to transmit photos to off-site clinicians for diagnosis reported significant reductions in correct diagnoses compared to diagnosis by an on-site specialist. Ten of the 42 trials investigated interventions targeting communication between health-care providers and patients. Eight of these trials investigated SMS-based appointment reminders. Meta-analyses of the results of these trials indicated that using SMS appointment reminders significantly but modestly increased patient attendance compared to no reminders. However, SMS reminders were no more effective than postal or phone call reminders, and texting reminders to patients who persistently missed appointments did not significantly change the number of cancelled appointments.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that some mHealth interventions designed to improve health-care service delivery processes are modestly effective, but they also highlight the need for more trials of these interventions. Specifically, these findings show that although some interventions designed to provide support for health-care providers modestly improved some aspects of clinical diagnosis and management, other interventions had deleterious effects—most notably, the use of mobile technology–based photos for diagnosis. In terms of mHealth interventions targeting communication between health-care providers and patients, the finding that SMS appointment reminders have modest benefits suggests that implementation of this intervention should be considered, at least in high-income settings. However, the researchers stress that more trials are needed to robustly establish the ability of mobile technology-based interventions to improve health-care delivery processes. These trials need to be of high quality, they should be undertaken in resource-limited settings as well as in high-income countries, and, ideally, they should consider interventions that combine mHealth and conventional approaches.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001363.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by Free et al. investigates the effectiveness of mHealth technology-based health behavior change and disease management interventions for health-care consumers
Wikipedia has a page on mHealth (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies is a global survey of mHealth prepared by the World Health Organization’s Global Observatory for eHealth (eHealth is health-care practice supported by electronic processes and communication)
The mHealth in Low-Resource Settings website, which is maintained by the Netherlands Royal Tropical Institute, provides information on the current use, potential, and limitations of mHealth in low-resource settings
The US National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center provides links to resources and information about mHealth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001363
PMCID: PMC3566926  PMID: 23458994
5.  Trial Publication after Registration in ClinicalTrials.Gov: A Cross-Sectional Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000144.
Joseph Ross and colleagues examine publication rates of clinical trials and find low rates of publication even following registration in Clinicaltrials.gov.
Background
ClinicalTrials.gov is a publicly accessible, Internet-based registry of clinical trials managed by the US National Library of Medicine that has the potential to address selective trial publication. Our objectives were to examine completeness of registration within ClinicalTrials.gov and to determine the extent and correlates of selective publication.
Methods and Findings
We examined reporting of registration information among a cross-section of trials that had been registered at ClinicalTrials.gov after December 31, 1999 and updated as having been completed by June 8, 2007, excluding phase I trials. We then determined publication status among a random 10% subsample by searching MEDLINE using a systematic protocol, after excluding trials completed after December 31, 2005 to allow at least 2 y for publication following completion. Among the full sample of completed trials (n = 7,515), nearly 100% reported all data elements mandated by ClinicalTrials.gov, such as intervention and sponsorship. Optional data element reporting varied, with 53% reporting trial end date, 66% reporting primary outcome, and 87% reporting trial start date. Among the 10% subsample, less than half (311 of 677, 46%) of trials were published, among which 96 (31%) provided a citation within ClinicalTrials.gov of a publication describing trial results. Trials primarily sponsored by industry (40%, 144 of 357) were less likely to be published when compared with nonindustry/nongovernment sponsored trials (56%, 110 of 198; p<0.001), but there was no significant difference when compared with government sponsored trials (47%, 57 of 122; p = 0.22). Among trials that reported an end date, 75 of 123 (61%) completed prior to 2004, 50 of 96 (52%) completed during 2004, and 62 of 149 (42%) completed during 2005 were published (p = 0.006).
Conclusions
Reporting of optional data elements varied and publication rates among completed trials registered within ClinicalTrials.gov were low. Without greater attention to reporting of all data elements, the potential for ClinicalTrials.gov to address selective publication of clinical trials will be limited.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
People assume that whenever they are ill, health care professionals will make sure they get the best available treatment. But how do clinicians know which treatment is most appropriate? In the past, clinicians used their own experience to make treatment decisions. Nowadays, they rely on evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of the results of clinical trials, studies that investigate the efficacy and safety of medical interventions in people. However, evidence-based medicine can only be effective if all the results from clinical trials are published promptly in medical journals. Unfortunately, the results of trials in which a new drug did not perform better than existing drugs or in which it had unwanted side effects often remain unpublished or only appear in the public domain many years after the drug has been approved for clinical use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other governmental bodies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The extent of this “selective” publication, which can impair evidence-based clinical practice, remains unclear but is thought to be substantial. In this study, the researchers investigate the problem of selective publication by systematically examining the extent of publication of the results of trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov, a Web-based registry of US and international clinical trials. ClinicalTrials.gov was established in 2000 by the US National Library of Medicine in response to the 1997 FDA Modernization Act. This act required preregistration of all trials of new drugs to provide the public with information about trials in which they might be able to participate. Mandatory data elements for registration in ClinicalTrials.gov initially included the trial's title, the condition studied in the trial, the trial design, and the intervention studied. In September 2007, the FDA Amendments Act expanded the mandatory requirements for registration in ClinicalTrials.gov by making it necessary, for example, to report the trial start date and to report primary and secondary outcomes (the effect of the intervention on predefined clinical measurements) in the registry within 2 years of trial completion.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 7,515 trials that were registered within ClinicalTrials.gov after December 31, 1999 (excluding phase I, safety trials), and whose record indicated trial completion by June 8, 2007. Most of these trials reported all the mandatory data elements that were required by ClinicalTrials.gov before the FDA Amendments Act but reporting of optional data elements was less complete. For example, only two-thirds of the trials reported their primary outcome. Next, the researchers randomly selected 10% of the trials and, after excluding trials whose completion date was after December 31, 2005 (to allow at least two years for publication), determined the publication status of this subsample by systematically searching MEDLINE (an online database of articles published in selected medical and scientific journals). Fewer than half of the trials in the subsample had been published, and the citation for only a third of these publications had been entered into ClinicalTrials.gov. Only 40% of industry-sponsored trials had been published compared to 56% of nonindustry/nongovernment-sponsored trials, a difference that is unlikely to have occurred by chance. Finally, 61% of trials with a completion date before 2004 had been published, but only 42% of trials completed during 2005 had been published.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, over the period studied, critical trial information was not included in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry. The FDA Amendments Act should remedy some of these shortcomings but only if the accuracy and completeness of the information in ClinicalTrials.gov is carefully monitored. These findings also reveal that registration in ClinicalTrials.gov does not guarantee that trial results will appear in a timely manner in the scientific literature. However, they do not address the reasons for selective publication (which may be, in part, because it is harder to publish negative results than positive results), and they are potentially limited by the methods used to discover whether trial results had been published. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the FDA, trial sponsors, and the scientific community all need to make a firm commitment to minimize the selective publication of trial results to ensure that patients and clinicians have access to the information they need to make fully informed treatment decisions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000144.
PLoS Medicine recently published two related articles on selected publication by Ida Sim and colleagues and by Lisa Bero and colleagues and an editorial discussing the FDA Amendments Act
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, including background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The US Food and Drug Administration provides further information about drug approval in the US for consumers and health care professionals
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000144
PMCID: PMC2728480  PMID: 19901971
6.  Effect of Supplementation with Zinc and Other Micronutrients on Malaria in Tanzanian Children: A Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001125.
Hans Verhoef and colleagues report findings from a randomized trial conducted among Tanzanian children at high risk for malaria. Children in the trial received either daily oral supplementation with either zinc alone, multi-nutrients without zinc, multi-nutrients with zinc, or placebo. The investigators did not find evidence from this study that zinc or multi-nutrients protected against malaria episodes.
Background
It is uncertain to what extent oral supplementation with zinc can reduce episodes of malaria in endemic areas. Protection may depend on other nutrients. We measured the effect of supplementation with zinc and other nutrients on malaria rates.
Methods and Findings
In a 2×2 factorial trial, 612 rural Tanzanian children aged 6–60 months in an area with intense malaria transmission and with height-for-age z-score≤−1.5 SD were randomized to receive daily oral supplementation with either zinc alone (10 mg), multi-nutrients without zinc, multi-nutrients with zinc, or placebo. Intervention group was indicated by colour code, but neither participants, researchers, nor field staff knew who received what intervention. Those with Plasmodium infection at baseline were treated with artemether-lumefantrine. The primary outcome, an episode of malaria, was assessed among children reported sick at a primary care clinic, and pre-defined as current Plasmodium infection with an inflammatory response, shown by axillary temperature ≥37.5°C or whole blood C-reactive protein concentration ≥8 mg/L. Nutritional indicators were assessed at baseline and at 251 days (median; 95% reference range: 191–296 days). In the primary intention-to-treat analysis, we adjusted for pre-specified baseline factors, using Cox regression models that accounted for multiple episodes per child. 592 children completed the study. The primary analysis included 1,572 malaria episodes during 526 child-years of observation (median follow-up: 331 days). Malaria incidence in groups receiving zinc, multi-nutrients without zinc, multi-nutrients with zinc and placebo was 2.89/child-year, 2.95/child-year, 3.26/child-year, and 2.87/child-year, respectively. There was no evidence that multi-nutrients influenced the effect of zinc (or vice versa). Neither zinc nor multi-nutrients influenced malaria rates (marginal analysis; adjusted HR, 95% CI: 1.04, 0.93–1.18 and 1.10, 0.97–1.24 respectively). The prevalence of zinc deficiency (plasma zinc concentration <9.9 µmol/L) was high at baseline (67% overall; 60% in those without inflammation) and strongly reduced by zinc supplementation.
Conclusions
We found no evidence from this trial that zinc supplementation protected against malaria.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00623857
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria is a serious global public-health problem. Half of the world's population is at risk of this parasitic disease, which kills a million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) every year. Malaria is transmitted to people through the bites of infected night-flying mosquitoes. Soon after entering the human body, the parasite begins to replicate in red blood cells, bursting out every 2–3 days and infecting more red blood cells. The presence of the parasite in the blood stream (parasitemia) causes malaria's characteristic recurring fever and can cause life-threatening organ damage and anemia (insufficient quantity of red blood cells). Malaria transmission can be reduced by using insecticide sprays to control the mosquitoes that spread the parasite and by avoiding mosquito bites by sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets. Effective treatment with antimalarial drugs can also reduce malaria transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
One reason why malaria kills so many children in Africa is poverty. Many children in Africa are malnourished, and malnutrition—in particular, insufficient micronutrients in the diet—impairs the immune system, which increases the frequency and severity of many childhood diseases. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that everyone needs in small quantities for good health. Zinc is one of the micronutrients that helps to maintain a healthy immune system, but zinc deficiency is very common among African children. Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the burden of diarrhea in developing countries, so might it also reduce the burden of malaria? Unfortunately, the existing evidence is confusing—some trials show that zinc supplementation protects against malaria but others show no evidence of protection. One possibility for these conflicting results could be that zinc supplementation alone is not sufficient—supplementation with other micronutrients might be needed for zinc to have an effect. In this randomized trial (a study that compares the effects of different interventions in groups that initially are similar in all characteristics except for intervention), the researchers investigate the effect of supplementation with zinc alone and in combination with other micronutrients on the rate of uncomplicated (mild) malaria among children living in Tanzania.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 612 children aged 6–60 months who were living in a rural area of Tanzania with intense malaria transmission and randomly assigned them to receive daily oral supplements containing zinc alone, multi-nutrients (including iron) without zinc, multi-nutrients with zinc, or a placebo (no micronutrients). Nutritional indicators (including zinc concentrations in blood plasma) were assessed at baseline and 6–10 months after starting the intervention. During the study period, there were 1,572 malaria episodes. The incidence of malaria in all four intervention groups was very similar (about three episodes per child-year), and there was no evidence that multi-nutrients influenced the effect of zinc (or vice versa). Moreover, none of the supplements had any effect on malaria rates when compared to the placebo, even though the occurrence of zinc deficiency was strongly reduced by zinc supplementation. In a secondary analysis in which they analyzed their data by iron status at baseline, the researchers found that multi-nutrient supplementation increased the overall number of malaria episodes in children with iron deficiency by 41%, whereas multi-nutrient supplementation had no effect on the number of malaria episodes among children who were iron-replete at baseline.
What Do These Findings Mean?
In this study, the researchers found no evidence that zinc supplementation protected against malaria among young children living in Tanzania when given alone or in combination with other multi-nutrients. However, the researchers did find some evidence that multi-nutrient supplementation may increase the risk of malaria in children with iron deficiency. Because this finding came out of a secondary analysis of the data, it needs to be confirmed in a trial specifically designed to assess the effect of multi-nutrient supplements on malaria risk in iron-deficient children. Nevertheless, it is a potentially worrying result because, on the basis of evidence from a single study, the World Health Organization currently recommends that regular iron supplements be given to iron-deficient children in settings where there is adequate access to anti-malarial treatment. This recommendation should be reconsidered, suggest the researchers, and the safety of multi-nutrient mixes that contain iron and that are dispensed in countries affected by malaria should also be carefully evaluated.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001125.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages), on micronutrients, and on zinc deficiency; the 2010 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on malaria in Africa
The Malaria Centre at the UK London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine develops tools, techniques, and knowledge about malaria, and has a strong emphasis on teaching, training, and translating research outcomes into practice
The Micronutrient Initiative, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and the Flour Fortification Initiative are not-for-profit organizations dedicated to ensuring that people in developing countries get the minerals and vitamins they need to survive and thrive
The International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group (iZiNCG) is a non-profit organization that aims to promote and assist efforts to reduce zinc deficiency worldwide, through advocacy efforts, education, and technical assistance
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001125
PMCID: PMC3222646  PMID: 22131908
7.  Effect of Removing Direct Payment for Health Care on Utilisation and Health Outcomes in Ghanaian Children: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000007.
Background
Delays in accessing care for malaria and other diseases can lead to disease progression, and user fees are a known barrier to accessing health care. Governments are introducing free health care to improve health outcomes. Free health care affects treatment seeking, and it is therefore assumed to lead to improved health outcomes, but there is no direct trial evidence of the impact of removing out-of-pocket payments on health outcomes in developing countries. This trial was designed to test the impact of free health care on health outcomes directly.
Methods and Findings
2,194 households containing 2,592 Ghanaian children under 5 y old were randomised into a prepayment scheme allowing free primary care including drugs, or to a control group whose families paid user fees for health care (normal practice); 165 children whose families had previously paid to enrol in the prepayment scheme formed an observational arm. The primary outcome was moderate anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] < 8 g/dl); major secondary outcomes were health care utilisation, severe anaemia, and mortality. At baseline the randomised groups were similar. Introducing free primary health care altered the health care seeking behaviour of households; those randomised to the intervention arm used formal health care more and nonformal care less than the control group. Introducing free primary health care did not lead to any measurable difference in any health outcome. The primary outcome of moderate anaemia was detected in 37 (3.1%) children in the control and 36 children (3.2%) in the intervention arm (adjusted odds ratio 1.05, 95% confidence interval 0.66–1.67). There were four deaths in the control and five in the intervention group. Mean Hb concentration, severe anaemia, parasite prevalence, and anthropometric measurements were similar in each group. Families who previously self-enrolled in the prepayment scheme were significantly less poor, had better health measures, and used services more frequently than those in the randomised group.
Conclusions
In the study setting, removing out-of-pocket payments for health care had an impact on health care-seeking behaviour but not on the health outcomes measured.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (#NCT00146692).
Evelyn Ansah and colleagues report on whether removing user fees has an impact on health care-seeking behavior and health outcomes in households with children in Ghana.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, about 10 million children worldwide die before their fifth birthday. About half these deaths occur in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, 166 children out of every 1,000 die before they are five. A handful of preventable diseases—acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS—are responsible for most of these deaths. For all these diseases, delays in accessing medical care contribute to the high death rate. In the case of malaria, for example, children are rarely taken to a clinic or hospital (formal health care) when they first develop symptoms, which include fever, chills, and anemia (lack of red blood cells). Instead, they are taken to traditional healers or given home remedies (informal health care). When they are finally taken to a clinic, it is often too late to save their lives. Many factors contribute to this delay in seeking formal health care. Sometimes, health care simply isn't available. In other instances, parents may worry about the quality of the service provided or may not seek formal health care because of their sociocultural beliefs. Finally, many parents cannot afford the travel costs and loss of earnings involved in taking their child to a clinic or the cost of the treatment itself.
Why Was This Study Done?
The financial cost of seeking formal health care is often the major barrier to accessing health care in poor countries. Consequently, the governments of several developing countries have introduced free health care in an effort to improve their nation's health. Such initiatives have increased the use of formal health care in several African countries; the introduction of user fees in Ghana in the early 1980s had the opposite effect. It is generally assumed that an increase in formal health care utilization improves health—but is this true? In this study, the researchers investigate the effect of removing direct payment for health care on health service utilization and health outcomes in Ghanaian children in a randomized controlled trial (a trial in which participants are randomly assigned to an “intervention” group or “control” group and various predefined outcomes are measured).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled nearly 2,600 children under the age of 5 y living in a poor region of Ghana. Half were assigned to the group in which a prepayment scheme (paid for by the trial) provided free primary and basic secondary health care—this was the intervention arm. The rest were assigned to the control group in which families paid for health care. The trial's main outcome was the percentage of children with moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season, an indicator of the effect of the intervention on malaria-related illness. Other outcomes included health care utilization (calculated from household diaries), severe anemia, and death. The researchers report that the children in the intervention arm attended formal health care facilities slightly more often and informal health care providers slightly less often than those in the control arm. About 3% of the children in both groups had moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season. In addition, similar numbers of deaths, cases of severe anemia, fever episodes, and known infections with the malaria parasite were recorded in both groups of children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in this setting, the removal of out-of-pocket payments for health care changed health care-seeking behavior but not health outcomes in children. This lack of a measured effect does not necessarily mean that the provision of free health care has no effect on children's health—it could be that the increase in health care utilization in the intervention arm compared to the control arm was too modest to produce a clear effect on health. Alternatively, in Ghana, the indirect costs of seeking health care may be more important than the direct cost of paying for treatment. Although the findings of this trial may not be generalizable to other countries, they nevertheless raise the possibility that providing free health care might not be the most cost-effective way of improving health in all developing countries. Importantly, they also suggest that changes in health care utilization should not be used in future trials as a proxy measure of improvements in health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Valéry Ridde and Slim Haddad
The World Health Organization provides information on child health and on global efforts to reduce child mortality, Millennium Development Goal 4; it also provides information about health in Ghana
The United Nations Web site provides further information on all the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to by the nations of the world in 2000 with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2015 (in several languages)
The UK Department for International Development also provides information on the progress that is being made toward reducing child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007
PMCID: PMC2613422  PMID: 19127975
8.  Conflicts of Interest at Medical Journals: The Influence of Industry-Supported Randomised Trials on Journal Impact Factors and Revenue – Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000354.
Andreas Lundh and colleagues investigated the effect of publication of large industry-supported trials on citations and journal income, through reprint sales, in six general medical journals
Background
Transparency in reporting of conflict of interest is an increasingly important aspect of publication in medical journals. Publication of large industry-supported trials may generate many citations and journal income through reprint sales and thereby be a source of conflicts of interest for journals. We investigated industry-supported trials' influence on journal impact factors and revenue.
Methods and Findings
We sampled six major medical journals (Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine, BMJ, JAMA, The Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM]). For each journal, we identified randomised trials published in 1996–1997 and 2005–2006 using PubMed, and categorized the type of financial support. Using Web of Science, we investigated citations of industry-supported trials and the influence on journal impact factors over a ten-year period. We contacted journal editors and retrieved tax information on income from industry sources. The proportion of trials with sole industry support varied between journals, from 7% in BMJ to 32% in NEJM in 2005–2006. Industry-supported trials were more frequently cited than trials with other types of support, and omitting them from the impact factor calculation decreased journal impact factors. The decrease varied considerably between journals, with 1% for BMJ to 15% for NEJM in 2007. For the two journals disclosing data, income from the sales of reprints contributed to 3% and 41% of the total income for BMJ and The Lancet in 2005–2006.
Conclusions
Publication of industry-supported trials was associated with an increase in journal impact factors. Sales of reprints may provide a substantial income. We suggest that journals disclose financial information in the same way that they require them from their authors, so that readers can assess the potential effect of different types of papers on journals' revenue and impact.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Medical journals publish many different types of papers that inform doctors about the latest research advances and the latest treatments for their patients. They publish articles that describe laboratory-based research into the causes of diseases and the identification of potential new drugs. They publish the results of early clinical trials in which a few patients are given a potential new drug to check its safety. Finally and most importantly, they publish the results of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). RCTs are studies in which large numbers of patients are randomly allocated to different treatments without the patient or the clinician knowing the allocation and the efficacy of the various treatments compared. RCTs are best way of determining whether a new drug is effective and have to be completed before a drug can be marketed. Because RCTs are very expensive, they are often supported by drug companies. That is, drug companies provide grants or drugs for the trial or assist with data analysis and/or article preparation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Whenever a medical journal publishes an article, the article's authors have to declare any conflicts of interest such as financial gain from the paper's publication. Conflict of interest statements help readers assess papers—an author who owns the patent for a drug, for example, might put an unduly positive spin on his/her results. The experts who review papers for journals before publication provide similar conflict of interest statements. But what about the journal editors who ultimately decide which papers get published? The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which produces medical publishing guidelines, states that: “Editors who make final decisions about manuscripts must have no personal, professional, or financial involvement in any of the issues that they might judge.” However, the publication of industry-supported RCTs might create “indirect” conflicts of interest for journals by boosting the journal's impact factor (a measure of a journal's importance based on how often its articles are cited) and its income through the sale of reprints to drug companies. In this study, the researchers investigate whether the publication of industry-supported RCTs influences the impact factors and finances of six major medical journals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers determined which RCTs published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the British Medical Journal (BMJ), The Lancet, and three other major medical journals in 1996–1997 and 2005–2006 were supported wholly, partly, or not at all by industry. They then used the online academic citation index Web of Science to calculate an approximate impact factor for each journal for 1998 and 2007 and calculated the effect of the published RCTs on the impact factor. The proportion of RCTs with sole industry support varied between journals. Thus, 32% of the RCTs published in the NEJM during both two-year periods had industry support whereas only 7% of the RCTs published in the BMJ in 2005–2006 had industry support. Industry-supported trials were more frequently cited than RCTs with other types of support and omitting industry-supported RCTs from impact factor calculations decreased all the approximate journal impact factors. For example, omitting all RCTs with industry or mixed support decreased the 2007 BMJ and NEJM impact factors by 1% and 15%, respectively. Finally, the researchers asked each journal's editor about their journal's income from industry sources. For the BMJ and The Lancet, the only journals that provided this information, income from reprint sales was 3% and 41%, respectively, of total income in 2005–2006.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the publication of industry-supported RCTs was associated with an increase in the approximate impact factors of these six major medical journals. Because these journals publish numerous RCTs, this result may not be generalizable to other journals. These findings also indicate that income from reprint sales can be a substantial proportion of a journal's total income. Importantly, these findings do not imply that the decisions of editors are affected by the possibility that the publication of an industry-supported trial might improve their journal's impact factor or income. Nevertheless, the researchers suggest, journals should live up to the same principles related to conflicts of interest as those that they require from their authors and should routinely disclose information on the source and amount of income that they receive.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000354.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Harvey Marcovitch
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors provides information about the publication of medical research, including conflicts of interest
The World Association of Medical Editors also provides information on conflicts of interest in medical journals
Information about impact factors is provided by Thomson Reuters, a provider of intelligent information for businesses and professionals; Thomson Reuters also runs Web of Science
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000354
PMCID: PMC2964336  PMID: 21048986
9.  Impact of Intermittent Screening and Treatment for Malaria among School Children in Kenya: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001594.
Katherine Halliday and colleagues conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in Kenyan school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission to investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment of malaria on health and education.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Improving the health of school-aged children can yield substantial benefits for cognitive development and educational achievement. However, there is limited experimental evidence of the benefits of alternative school-based malaria interventions or how the impacts of interventions vary according to intensity of malaria transmission. We investigated the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) for malaria on the health and education of school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomised trial was implemented with 5,233 children in 101 government primary schools on the south coast of Kenya in 2010–2012. The intervention was delivered to children randomly selected from classes 1 and 5 who were followed up for 24 months. Once a school term, children were screened by public health workers using malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), and children (with or without malaria symptoms) found to be RDT-positive were treated with a six dose regimen of artemether-lumefantrine (AL). Given the nature of the intervention, the trial was not blinded. The primary outcomes were anaemia and sustained attention. Secondary outcomes were malaria parasitaemia and educational achievement. Data were analysed on an intention-to-treat basis.
During the intervention period, an average of 88.3% children in intervention schools were screened at each round, of whom 17.5% were RDT-positive. 80.3% of children in the control and 80.2% in the intervention group were followed-up at 24 months. No impact of the malaria IST intervention was observed for prevalence of anaemia at either 12 or 24 months (adjusted risk ratio [Adj.RR]: 1.03, 95% CI 0.93–1.13, p = 0.621 and Adj.RR: 1.00, 95% CI 0.90–1.11, p = 0.953) respectively, or on prevalence of P. falciparum infection or scores of classroom attention. No effect of IST was observed on educational achievement in the older class, but an apparent negative effect was seen on spelling scores in the younger class at 9 and 24 months and on arithmetic scores at 24 months.
Conclusion
In this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study is not effective in improving the health or education of school children. Possible reasons for the absence of an impact are the marked geographical heterogeneity in transmission, the rapid rate of reinfection following AL treatment, the variable reliability of RDTs, and the relative contribution of malaria to the aetiology of anaemia in this setting.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00878007
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide and more than 600,000 people, mostly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die from this mosquito-borne parasitic infection. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the night-biting mosquitoes that transmit Plasmodium parasites and by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets to avoid mosquito bites. Infection with malaria parasites causes recurring flu-like symptoms and needs to be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent the development of anaemia (a reduction in red blood cell numbers) and potentially fatal damage to the brain and other organs. Treatment also reduces malaria transmission. In 1998, the World Health Organization and several other international bodies established the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to provide a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria. In 2008, the Partnership launched its Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims to control malaria to reduce the current burden, to eliminate malaria over time country by country, and, ultimately, to eradicate malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, many malaria-endemic countries (countries where malaria is always present) have implemented successful malaria control programs and reduced malaria transmission levels. In these countries, immunity to malaria is now acquired more slowly than in the past, the burden of clinical malaria is shifting from very young children to older children, and infection rates with malaria parasites are now highest among school-aged children. Chronic untreated Plasmodium infection, even when it does not cause symptoms, can negatively affect children's health, cognitive development (the acquisition of thinking skills), and educational achievement. However, little is known about how school-based malaria interventions affect the health of children or their educational outcomes. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) of malaria on the health and education of school children in a rural area of southern Kenya with low-to-moderate malaria transmission. Cluster randomized trials compare the outcomes of groups (“clusters”) of people randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions. IST of malaria involves periodical screening of individuals for Plasmodium infection followed by treatment of everyone who is infected, including people without symptoms, with antimalarial drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled more than 5,000 children aged between 5 and 20 years from 101 government primary schools in Kenya into their 24-month study. Half the schools were randomly selected to receive the IST intervention (screening once a school term for infection with a malaria parasite with a rapid diagnostic test [RDT] and treatment of all RDT-positive children, with or without malaria symptoms, with six doses of artemether-lumefantrine), which was delivered to randomly selected children from classes 1 and 5 (which contained younger and older children, respectively). During the study, 17.5% of the children in the intervention schools were RDT-positive at screening on average. The prevalences of anaemia and parasitemia (the proportion of children with anaemia and the proportion who were RDT-positive, respectively) were similar in the intervention and control groups at the 12-month and 24-month follow-up and there was no difference between the two groups in classroom attention scores at the 9-month and 24-month follow-up. The IST intervention also had no effect on educational achievement in the older class but, unexpectedly, appeared to have a negative effect on spelling and arithmetic scores in the younger class.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study provided no health or education benefits to school children. The finding that the educational achievement of younger children was lower in the intervention group than in the control group may be a chance finding or may indicate that apprehension about the finger prick needed to take blood for the RDT had a negative effect on the performance of younger children during educational tests. The researchers suggest that their failure to demonstrate that the school-based IST intervention they tested had any long-lasting health or education benefits may be because, in a low-to-moderate malaria transmission setting, most of the children screened did not require treatment and those who did lived in focal high transmission regions, where rapid re-infection occurred between screening rounds. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that school screening using RDT could be an efficient way to identify transmission hotspots in communities that should be targeted for malaria control interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lorenz von Seidlein
Information is available fro m the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2012 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about children with malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes a fact sheet about malaria in Kenya
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about this trial is available
More information about malaria control in schools is provided in the toolkit
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594
PMCID: PMC3904819  PMID: 24492859
10.  Factors Associated with Findings of Published Trials of Drug–Drug Comparisons: Why Some Statins Appear More Efficacious than Others 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e184.
Background
Published pharmaceutical industry–sponsored trials are more likely than non-industry-sponsored trials to report results and conclusions that favor drug over placebo. Little is known about potential biases in drug–drug comparisons. This study examined associations between research funding source, study design characteristics aimed at reducing bias, and other factors that potentially influence results and conclusions in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of statin–drug comparisons.
Methods and Findings
This is a cross-sectional study of 192 published RCTs comparing a statin drug to another statin drug or non-statin drug. Data on concealment of allocation, selection bias, blinding, sample size, disclosed funding source, financial ties of authors, results for primary outcomes, and author conclusions were extracted by two coders (weighted kappa 0.80 to 0.97). Univariate and multivariate logistic regression identified associations between independent variables and favorable results and conclusions. Of the RCTs, 50% (95/192) were funded by industry, and 37% (70/192) did not disclose any funding source. Looking at the totality of available evidence, we found that almost all studies (98%, 189/192) used only surrogate outcome measures. Moreover, study design weaknesses common to published statin–drug comparisons included inadequate blinding, lack of concealment of allocation, poor follow-up, and lack of intention-to-treat analyses. In multivariate analysis of the full sample, trials with adequate blinding were less likely to report results favoring the test drug, and sample size was associated with favorable conclusions when controlling for other factors. In multivariate analysis of industry-funded RCTs, funding from the test drug company was associated with results (odds ratio = 20.16 [95% confidence interval 4.37–92.98], p < 0.001) and conclusions (odds ratio = 34.55 [95% confidence interval 7.09–168.4], p < 0.001) that favor the test drug when controlling for other factors. Studies with adequate blinding were less likely to report statistically significant results favoring the test drug.
Conclusions
RCTs of head-to-head comparisons of statins with other drugs are more likely to report results and conclusions favoring the sponsor's product compared to the comparator drug. This bias in drug–drug comparison trials should be considered when making decisions regarding drug choice.
Lisa Bero and colleagues found published trials comparing one statin with another were more likely to report results and conclusions favoring the sponsor's product than the comparison drug.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Randomized controlled trials are generally considered to be the most reliable type of experimental study for evaluating the effectiveness of different treatments. Randomization involves the assignment of participants in the trial to different treatment groups by the play of chance. Properly done, this procedure means that the different groups are comparable at outset, reducing the chance that outside factors could be responsible for treatment effects seen in the trial. When done properly, randomization also ensures that the clinicians recruiting participants into the trial cannot know the treatment group to which a patient will end up being assigned. However, despite these advantages, a large number of factors can still result in bias creeping in. Bias comes about when the findings of research appear to differ in some systematic way from the true result. Other research studies have suggested that funding is a source of bias; studies sponsored by drug companies seem to more often favor the sponsor's drug than trials not sponsored by drug companies
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to more precisely understand the impact of different possible sources of bias in the findings of randomized controlled trials. In particular, they wanted to study the outcomes of “head-to-head” drug comparison studies for one particular class of drugs, the statins. Drugs in this class are commonly prescribed to reduce the levels of cholesterol in blood amongst people who are at risk of heart and other types of disease. This drug class is a good example for studying the role of bias in drug–drug comparison trials, because these trials are extensively used in decision making by health-policy makers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research study was based on searching PubMed, a biomedical literature database, with the aim of finding all randomized controlled trials of statins carried out between January 1999 and May 2005 (reference lists also were searched). Only trials which compared one statin to another statin or one statin to another type of drug were included. The researchers extracted the following information from each article: the study's source of funding, aspects of study design, the overall results, and the authors' conclusions. The results were categorized to show whether the findings were favorable to the test drug (the newer statin), inconclusive, or not favorable to the test drug. Aspects of each study's design were also categorized in relation to various features, such as how well the randomization was done (in particular, the degree to which the processes used would have prevented physicians from knowing which treatment a patient was likely to receive on enrollment); whether all participants enrolled in the trial were eventually analyzed; and whether investigators or participants knew what treatment an individual was receiving.
One hundred and ninety-two trials were included in this study, and of these, 95 declared drug company funding; 23 declared government or other nonprofit funding while 74 did not declare funding or were not funded. Trials that were properly blinded (where participants and investigators did not know what treatment an individual received) were less likely to have conclusions favoring the test drug. However, large trials were more likely to favor the test drug than smaller trials. When looking specifically at the trials funded by drug companies, the researchers found various factors that predicted whether a result or conclusion favored the test drug. These included the impact of the journal publishing the results; the size of the trial; and whether funding came from the maker of the test drug. However, properly blinded trials were less likely to produce results favoring the test drug. Even once all other factors were accounted for, the funding source for the study was still linked with results and conclusions that favored the maker of the test drug.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that the type of sponsorship available for randomized controlled trials of statins was strongly linked to the results and conclusions of those studies, even when other factors were taken into account. However, it is not clear from this study why sponsorship has such a strong link to the overall findings. There are many possible reasons why this might be. Some people have suggested that drug companies may deliberately choose lower dosages for the comparison drug when they carry out “head-to-head” trials; this tactic is likely to result in the company's product doing better in the trial. Others have suggested that trials which produce unfavorable results are not published, or that unfavorable outcomes are suppressed. Whatever the reasons for these findings, the implications are important, and suggest that the evidence base relating to statins may be substantially biased.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040184.
The James Lind Library has been created to help people understand fair tests of treatments in health care by illustrating how fair tests have developed over the centuries
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has provided guidance regarding sponsorship, authorship, and accountability
The CONSORT statement is a research tool that provides an evidence-based approach for reporting the results of randomized controlled trials
Good Publication Practice guidelines provide standards for responsible publication of research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
Information from Wikipedia on Statins. Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040184
PMCID: PMC1885451  PMID: 17550302
11.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Background
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
Conclusions
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338.
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
12.  Low-Dose Adrenaline, Promethazine, and Hydrocortisone in the Prevention of Acute Adverse Reactions to Antivenom following Snakebite: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000435.
In a factorial randomized trial conducted in Sri Lanka, de Silva and colleagues evaluate the safety and efficacy of pretreatments intended to reduce the risk of serious reactions to antivenom following snakebite.
Background
Envenoming from snakebites is most effectively treated by antivenom. However, the antivenom available in South Asian countries commonly causes acute allergic reactions, anaphylactic reactions being particularly serious. We investigated whether adrenaline, promethazine, and hydrocortisone prevent such reactions in secondary referral hospitals in Sri Lanka by conducting a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial.
Methods and Findings
In total, 1,007 patients were randomized, using a 2×2×2 factorial design, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of adrenaline (0.25 ml of a 1∶1,000 solution subcutaneously), promethazine (25 mg intravenously), and hydrocortisone (200 mg intravenously), each alone and in all possible combinations. The interventions, or matching placebo, were given immediately before infusion of antivenom. Patients were monitored for mild, moderate, or severe adverse reactions for at least 96 h. The prespecified primary end point was the effect of the interventions on the incidence of severe reactions up to and including 48 h after antivenom administration. In total, 752 (75%) patients had acute reactions to antivenom: 9% mild, 48% moderate, and 43% severe; 89% of the reactions occurred within 1 h; and 40% of all patients were given rescue medication (adrenaline, promethazine, and hydrocortisone) during the first hour. Compared with placebo, adrenaline significantly reduced severe reactions to antivenom by 43% (95% CI 25–67) at 1 h and by 38% (95% CI 26–49) up to and including 48 h after antivenom administration; hydrocortisone and promethazine did not. Adding hydrocortisone negated the benefit of adrenaline.
Conclusions
Pretreatment with low-dose adrenaline was safe and reduced the risk of acute severe reactions to snake antivenom. This may be of particular importance in countries where adverse reactions to antivenom are common, although the need to improve the quality of available antivenom cannot be overemphasized.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00270777
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Of the 3,000 or so snake species in the world, about 600 are venomous. Venomous snakes, which are particularly common in equatorial and tropical regions, immobilize their prey by injecting modified saliva (venom) into their prey's tissues through their fangs—specialized hollow teeth. Snakes also use their venoms for self-defense and will bite people who threaten, startle, or provoke them. A bite from a highly venomous snake such as a pit viper or cobra can cause widespread bleeding, muscle paralysis, irreversible kidney damage, and tissue destruction (necrosis) around the bite site. All these effects of snakebite are potentially fatal; necrosis can also result in amputation and permanent disability. It is hard to get accurate estimates of the number of people affected by snakebite, but there may be about 2 million envenomings (injections of venom) and 100,000 deaths every year, many of them in rural areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Was This Study Done?
The best treatment for snakebite is to give antivenom (a mixture of antibodies that neutralize the venom) as soon as possible. Unfortunately, in countries where snakebites are common (for example, Sri Lanka), antivenoms are often of dubious quality, and acute allergic reactions to them frequently occur. Although some of these reactions are mild (for example, rashes), in up to 40% of cases, anaphylaxis—a potentially fatal, whole-body allergic reaction—develops. The major symptoms of anaphylaxis—a sudden drop in blood pressure and breathing difficulties caused by swelling of the airways—can be treated with adrenaline. Injections of antihistamines (for example, promethazine) and hydrocortisone can also help. In an effort to prevent anaphylaxis, these drugs are also widely given before antivenom, but there is little evidence that such “prophylactic” treatment is effective or safe. In this randomized double-blind controlled trial (RCT), the researchers test whether low-dose adrenaline, promethazine, and/or hydrocortisone can prevent acute adverse reactions to antivenom. In an RCT, the effects of various interventions are compared to a placebo (dummy) in groups of randomly chosen patients; neither the patients nor the people caring for them know who is receiving which treatment until the trial is completed.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomized 1,007 patients who had been admitted to secondary referral hospitals in Sri Lanka after snakebite to receive low-dose adrenaline, promethazine, hydrocortisone, or placebo alone and in all possible combinations immediately before treatment with antivenom. The patients were monitored for at least 96 hours for adverse reactions to the antivenom; patients who reacted badly were given adrenaline, promethazine, and hydrocortisone as “rescue medication.” Three-quarters of the patients had acute reactions—mostly moderate or severe—to the antivenom. Most of the acute reactions occurred within an hour of receiving the antivenom, and nearly half of all the patients were given rescue medication during the first hour. Compared with placebo, pretreatment with adrenaline reduced severe reactions to the antivenom by 43% at one hour and by 38% over 48 hours. By contrast, neither hydrocortisone nor promethazine given alone reduced the rate of adverse reactions to the antivenom. Moreover, adding hydrocortisone negated the beneficial effect of adrenaline.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that pretreatment with low-dose adrenaline is safe and reduces the risk of acute severe reactions to snake antivenom, particularly during the first hour after infusion. They do not provide support for pretreatment with promethazine or hydrocortisone, however. Indeed, the findings suggest that the addition of hydrocortisone could negate the benefits of adrenaline, although this finding needs to be treated with caution because of the design of the trial, as does the observed increased risk of death associated with pretreatment with hydrocortisone. More generally, the high rate of acute adverse reactions to antivenom in this trial highlights the importance of improving the quality of antivenoms available in Sri Lanka and other parts of South Asia. The researchers note that the recent World Health Organization guidelines on production, control, and regulation of antivenom should help in this regard but stress that, for now, it is imperative that physicians carefully monitor patients who have been given antivenom and provide prompt treatment of acute reactions when they occur.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000435.
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on snakebite and on anaphylaxis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also has pages on snakebite and on anaphylaxis
The World Health Organization has information on snakebite and on snake antivenoms (in several languages); its Guidelines for the Production, Control and Regulation of Snake Antivenom Immunoglobulins are also available
The Global Snakebite Initiative has information on snakebite
A PLoS Medicine Research Article by Anuradhani Kasturiratne and colleagues provides data on the global burden of snakebite
A PLoS Medicine Neglected Diseases Article by José María Gutiérrez and colleagues discusses the neglected problem of snakebite envenoming
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000435
PMCID: PMC3091849  PMID: 21572992
13.  Standardized Treatment of Active Tuberculosis in Patients with Previous Treatment and/or with Mono-resistance to Isoniazid: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000150.
Performing a systematic review of studies evaluating retreatment of tuberculosis or treatment of isoniazid mono-resistant infection, Dick Menzies and colleagues find a paucity of evidence to support the WHO-recommended regimen.
Background
A standardized regimen recommended by the World Health Organization for retreatment of active tuberculosis (TB) is widely used, but treatment outcomes are suspected to be poor. We conducted a systematic review of published evidence of treatment of patients with a history of previous treatment or documented isoniazid mono-resistance.
Methods and Findings
PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central database for clinical trials were searched for randomized trials in previously treated patients and/or those with with mono-resistance to isoniazid, published in English, French, or Spanish between 1965 and June 2008. The first two sources were also searched for cohort studies evaluating specifically the current retreatment regimen. In studies selected for inclusion, rifampin-containing regimens were used to treat patients with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB, in whom bacteriologically confirmed failure and/or relapse had been reported. Pooled cumulative incidences and 95% CIs of treatment outcomes were computed with random effects meta-analyses and negative binomial regression. No randomized trials of the currently recommended retreatment regimen were identified. Only six cohort studies were identified, in which failure rates were 18%–44% in those with isoniazid resistance. In nine trials, using very different regimens in previously treated patients with mono-resistance to isoniazid, the combined failure and relapse rates ranged from 0% to over 75%. From pooled analysis of 33 trials in 1,907 patients with mono-resistance to isoniazid, lower failure, relapse, and acquired drug resistance rates were associated with longer duration of rifampin, use of streptomycin, daily therapy initially, and treatment with a greater number of effective drugs.
Conclusions
There are few published studies to support use of the current standardized retreatment regimen. Randomized trials of treatment of persons with isoniazid mono-resistance and/or a history of previous TB treatment are urgently needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly ten million people develop tuberculosis—a contagious infection, usually of the lungs—and about 2 million people die from the disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacteria that are spread in airborne droplets when people with the disease cough or sneeze. Its symptoms include a persistent cough, fever, weight loss, and night sweats. Diagnostic tests for tuberculosis include chest X-rays and sputum slide exams and cultures in which bacteriologists try to grow M. tuberculosis from mucus brought up from the lungs by coughing. The disease can be cured by taking several powerful antibiotics regularly (daily or several times a week) for at least 6 months. However, 10%–20% of patients treated for tuberculosis in low- and middle-income countries need re-treatment because the initial treatment fails to clear M. tuberculosis from their body or because their disease returns after they have apparently been cured (treatment relapse). Patients who need re-treatment are often infected with bacteria that are resistant to one or more of the antibiotics commonly used to treat tuberculosis.
Why Was This Study Done?
As part of its strategy to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends standardized treatment regimens for tuberculosis. For re-treatment, WHO recommends an 8-month course of isoniazid, rifampin, and ethambutol with pyrazinamide and streptomycin added for the first 3 and 2 months, respectively. All these drugs are given daily (the preferred regimen) or three times a week. Unfortunately, although this regimen is now used to treat about 1 million patients each year, it yields poor results, particularly in regions where drug resistance is common. In this study (which was commissioned by WHO to provide the evidence needed for a revision of its treatment guidelines), the researchers undertake a systematic review (a search using specific criteria to identify relevant research studies, which are then appraised) and a meta-analysis (a statistical approach that pools the results of several studies) of randomized trials and cohort studies (two types of study that investigate the efficacy of medical interventions) of re-treatment regimens in previously treated tuberculosis patients, and in patients with infection that was resistant to isoniazid (“mono-resistance”).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' systematic search for published reports of randomized trials and cohort studies of the currently recommended re-treatment regimen identified no relevant randomized trials and only six cohort studies. In the three cohort studies in which the participants carried M. tuberculosis strains that were sensitive to all the antibiotics in the regimen, failure rates were generally low. However, in the studies in which the participants carried drug-resistant bacteria, failure rates ranged from 9% to 45%. The researchers also identified and analyzed the results of nine trials in which several re-treatment regimens, all of which deviated from the standardized regimen, were used in previously treated patients with isoniazid mono-resistance. In these trials, the combined failure and relapse rates ranged from 0% to more than 75%. Finally, the researchers analyzed the pooled results of 33 trials that investigated the effect of various regimens on nearly 2,000 patients (some receiving their first treatment for tuberculosis, some being re-treated) with isoniazid mono-resistance. This meta-analysis showed that lower relapse, failure, and acquired drug resistance rates were associated with longer duration of rifampicin treatment, use of streptomycin, daily therapy early in the treatment, and regimens that included a greater number of drugs to which the M. tuberculosis carried by the patient were sensitive.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal that there is very little published evidence that supports the regimen currently recommended by WHO for the re-treatment of tuberculosis. Furthermore, this limited body of evidence is a patchwork of results gleaned from a few cohort studies and a set of randomized trials not specifically designed to test the efficacy of the standardized regimen. There is an urgent need, therefore, for a concerted international effort to initiate randomized trials of potential treatment regimens in both previously untreated and previously treated patients with all forms of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Because these trials will take some time to complete, the limited findings of the meta-analysis presented here may be used in the meantime to redesign and, hopefully, improve the current standardized re-treatment regimen. In fact, the revised WHO TB treatment guidelines will provide updated recommendations for patients with previously treated TB.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000150.
The results of another WHO-commissioned study into the treatment of tuberculosis are presented in a separate PLoS Medicine Research Article by Menzies et al. (Menzies D, Benedetti A, Paydar A, Martin I, Royce S, et al. (2009) Effect of Duration and Intermittency of Rifampin on Tuberculosis Treatment Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS Med 6(9): e1000146.)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis
The American Thoracic Society, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Infectious Diseases Society of America offer guidelines on TB treatment
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide several facts sheets and other information resources about tuberculosis
The 2003 (2004 revision) WHO guidelines for national programs for the treatment of tuberculosis are available; WHO also provides information on efforts to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis (in several languages) and its 2009 annual report on global control of tuberculosis describes the current situation (key points are available in several languages)
The WHO publishes guidelines on TB treatment
For guidelines on drug susceptibility testing (DST) and other information on TB diagnostic tests, the Stop TB Partnership's New Diagnostics Working Group has created a new Web site called Evidence-Based Tuberculosis Diagnosis
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000150
PMCID: PMC2736403  PMID: 20101802
14.  Timing and Completeness of Trial Results Posted at ClinicalTrials.gov and Published in Journals 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001566.
Agnes Dechartres and colleagues searched ClinicalTrials.gov for completed drug RCTs with results reported and then searched for corresponding studies in PubMed to evaluate timeliness and completeness of reporting.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
The US Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act requires results from clinical trials of Food and Drug Administration–approved drugs to be posted at ClinicalTrials.gov within 1 y after trial completion. We compared the timing and completeness of results of drug trials posted at ClinicalTrials.gov and published in journals.
Methods and Findings
We searched ClinicalTrials.gov on March 27, 2012, for randomized controlled trials of drugs with posted results. For a random sample of these trials, we searched PubMed for corresponding publications. Data were extracted independently from ClinicalTrials.gov and from the published articles for trials with results both posted and published. We assessed the time to first public posting or publishing of results and compared the completeness of results posted at ClinicalTrials.gov versus published in journal articles. Completeness was defined as the reporting of all key elements, according to three experts, for the flow of participants, efficacy results, adverse events, and serious adverse events (e.g., for adverse events, reporting of the number of adverse events per arm, without restriction to statistically significant differences between arms for all randomized patients or for those who received at least one treatment dose).
From the 600 trials with results posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, we randomly sampled 50% (n = 297) had no corresponding published article. For trials with both posted and published results (n = 202), the median time between primary completion date and first results publicly posted was 19 mo (first quartile = 14, third quartile = 30 mo), and the median time between primary completion date and journal publication was 21 mo (first quartile = 14, third quartile = 28 mo). Reporting was significantly more complete at ClinicalTrials.gov than in the published article for the flow of participants (64% versus 48% of trials, p<0.001), efficacy results (79% versus 69%, p = 0.02), adverse events (73% versus 45%, p<0.001), and serious adverse events (99% versus 63%, p<0.001).
The main study limitation was that we considered only the publication describing the results for the primary outcomes.
Conclusions
Our results highlight the need to search ClinicalTrials.gov for both unpublished and published trials. Trial results, especially serious adverse events, are more completely reported at ClinicalTrials.gov than in the published article.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
When patients consult a doctor, they expect to be recommended what their doctor believes is the most effective treatment with the fewest adverse effects. To determine which treatment to recommend, clinicians rely on sources that include research studies. Among studies, the best evidence is generally agreed to come from systematic reviews and randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs), studies that test the efficacy and safety of medical interventions by comparing clinical outcomes in groups of patients randomly chosen to receive different interventions. Decision-making based on the best available evidence is called evidence-based medicine. However, evidence-based medicine can only guide clinicians if trial results are published in a timely and complete manner. Unfortunately, underreporting of trials is common. For example, an RCT in which a new drug performs better than existing drugs is more likely to be published than one in which the new drug performs badly or has unwanted adverse effects (publication bias). There can also be a delay in publishing the results of negative trials (time-lag bias) or a failure to publish complete results for all the prespecified outcomes of a trial (reporting bias). All three types of bias threaten informed medical decision-making and the health of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
One initiative that aims to prevent these biases was included in the 2007 US Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving drugs and devices that are marketed in the US. The FDAAA requires that results from clinical trials of FDA-approved drugs and devices conducted in the United States be made publicly available at ClinicalTrials.gov within one year of trial completion. ClinicalTrials.gov—a web-based registry that includes US and international clinical trials—was established in 2000 in response to the 1997 FDA Modernization Act, which required mandatory registration of trial titles and designs and of the conditions and interventions under study. The FDAAA expanded these mandatory requirements by requiring researchers studying FDA-approved drugs and devices to report additional information such as the baseline characteristics of the participants in each arm of the trial and the results of primary and secondary outcome measures (the effects of the intervention on predefined clinical measurements) and their statistical significance (an indication of whether differences in outcomes might have happened by chance). Researchers of other trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov are welcome to post trial results as well. Here, the researchers compare the timing and completeness (i.e., whether all relevant information was fully reported) of results of drug trials posted at ClinicalTrials.gov with those published in medical journals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched ClinicalTrials.gov for reports of completed phase III and IV (late-stage) RCTs of drugs with posted results. For a random sample of 600 eligible trials, they searched PubMed (a database of biomedical publications) for corresponding publications. Only 50% of trials with results posted at ClinicalTrials.gov had a matching published article. For 202 trials with both posted and published results, the researchers compared the timing and completeness of the results posted at ClinicalTrials.gov and of results reported in the corresponding journal publication. The median time between the study completion date and the first results being publicly posted at ClinicalTrials.gov was 19 months, whereas the time between completion and publication in a journal was 21 months. The flow of participants through trials was completely reported in 64% of the ClinicalTrials.gov postings but in only 48% of the corresponding publications. Results for the primary outcome measure were completely reported in 79% and 69% of the ClinicalTrials.gov postings and corresponding publications, respectively. Finally, adverse events were completely reported in 73% of the ClinicalTrials.gov postings but in only 45% of the corresponding publications, and serious adverse events were reported in 99% and 63% of the ClinicalTrials.gov postings and corresponding publications, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the reporting of trial results is significantly more complete at ClinicalTrials.gov than in published journal articles reporting the main trial results. Certain aspects of this study may affect the accuracy of this conclusion. For example, the researchers compared the results posted at ClinicalTrials.gov only with the results in the publication that described the primary outcome of each trial, even though some trials had multiple publications. Importantly, these findings suggest that, to enable patients and physicians to make informed treatment decisions, experts undertaking assessments of drugs should consider seeking efficacy and safety data posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, both for trials whose results are not published yet and for trials whose results are published. Moreover, they suggest that the use of templates to guide standardized reporting of trial results in journals and broader mandatory posting of results may help to improve the reporting and transparency of clinical trials and, consequently, the evidence available to inform treatment of patients.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001566.
Wikipedia has pages on evidence-based medicine and on publication bias (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and health-care professionals, plus detailed information on the 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, including background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act
PLOS Medicine recently launched a Reporting Guidelines Collection, an open access collection of reporting guidelines, commentary, and related research on guidelines from across PLOS journals that aims to help advance the efficiency, effectiveness, and equitability of the dissemination of biomedical information; a 2008 PLOS Medicine editorial discusses the 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001566
PMCID: PMC3849189  PMID: 24311990
15.  Efficacy and Safety of Three Antiretroviral Regimens for Initial Treatment of HIV-1: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Diverse Multinational Settings 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001290.
Thomas Campbell and colleagues report findings of a randomized trial conducted in multiple countries regarding the efficacy of antiretroviral regimens with simplified dosing.
Background
Antiretroviral regimens with simplified dosing and better safety are needed to maximize the efficiency of antiretroviral delivery in resource-limited settings. We investigated the efficacy and safety of antiretroviral regimens with once-daily compared to twice-daily dosing in diverse areas of the world.
Methods and Findings
1,571 HIV-1-infected persons (47% women) from nine countries in four continents were assigned with equal probability to open-label antiretroviral therapy with efavirenz plus lamivudine-zidovudine (EFV+3TC-ZDV), atazanavir plus didanosine-EC plus emtricitabine (ATV+DDI+FTC), or efavirenz plus emtricitabine-tenofovir-disoproxil fumarate (DF) (EFV+FTC-TDF). ATV+DDI+FTC and EFV+FTC-TDF were hypothesized to be non-inferior to EFV+3TC-ZDV if the upper one-sided 95% confidence bound for the hazard ratio (HR) was ≤1.35 when 30% of participants had treatment failure.
An independent monitoring board recommended stopping study follow-up prior to accumulation of 472 treatment failures. Comparing EFV+FTC-TDF to EFV+3TC-ZDV, during a median 184 wk of follow-up there were 95 treatment failures (18%) among 526 participants versus 98 failures among 519 participants (19%; HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.72–1.27; p = 0.74). Safety endpoints occurred in 243 (46%) participants assigned to EFV+FTC-TDF versus 313 (60%) assigned to EFV+3TC-ZDV (HR 0.64, CI 0.54–0.76; p<0.001) and there was a significant interaction between sex and regimen safety (HR 0.50, CI 0.39–0.64 for women; HR 0.79, CI 0.62–1.00 for men; p = 0.01). Comparing ATV+DDI+FTC to EFV+3TC-ZDV, during a median follow-up of 81 wk there were 108 failures (21%) among 526 participants assigned to ATV+DDI+FTC and 76 (15%) among 519 participants assigned to EFV+3TC-ZDV (HR 1.51, CI 1.12–2.04; p = 0.007).
Conclusion
EFV+FTC-TDF had similar high efficacy compared to EFV+3TC-ZDV in this trial population, recruited in diverse multinational settings. Superior safety, especially in HIV-1-infected women, and once-daily dosing of EFV+FTC-TDF are advantageous for use of this regimen for initial treatment of HIV-1 infection in resource-limited countries. ATV+DDI+FTC had inferior efficacy and is not recommended as an initial antiretroviral regimen.
Trial Registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00084136
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Despite the enormous gains in reducing HIV-related illness and death over the past decade, there are still considerable challenges to meeting the global goal of universal access to highly active antiretroviral treatment—a combination of effective drugs that attack the HIV virus in various ways—to everyone living with HIV/AIDS who could benefit from treatment. In recognition of the related financial, technical, and system obstacles to providing universal access to HIV treatment, in 2010 the UN agency responsible for HIV/AIDS—UNAIDS—launched an ambitious plan called Treatment 2.0, which aims to simplify the way HIV treatment is currently provided. One of the main focuses of Treatment 2.0 is to simplify drug regimes for the treatment of HIV and to make treatment regimes less toxic. In line with Treatment 2.0, the World Health Organization currently recommends that antiretroviral regimens for the initial treatment of HIV should include two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (zidovudine or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate [DF] with lamivudine or emtricitabine) and a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (efavirenz or nevirapine.)
Why Was This Study Done?
Most of the evidence about the safety and effectiveness of clinical trials come from clinical trials in high-income countries and thus is not generally representative of the majority of people with HIV. So in this study, the researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in diverse populations in many different settings to investigate whether antiretroviral regimens administered once daily were as effective as twice-daily regimens and also whether a regimen containing the drug atazanavir administered once daily was as safe and effective as a regimen containing efavirenz—data from previous studies have suggested that atazanavir has characteristics, such as its side effect profile, which may make it more suitable for low income settings.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited eligible patients from centers in Brazil, Haiti, India, Malawi, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, the United States, and Zimbabwe—almost half (47%) were women. Then the researchers randomly assigned participants to one of three regimens: efavirenz 600 mg daily plus co-formulated lamivudine-zidovudine 150 mg/300 mg twice daily (EFV+3TC-ZDV); or atazanavir 400 mg once daily, plus didanosine-EC 400 mg once daily, plus emtricitabine 200 mg once daily (ATV+DDI+FTC); or efavirenz 600 mg once daily plus coformulated emtricitabine-tenofovir-DF 200 mg/300 mg once daily (EFV+FTC-TDF). During the study period ATV+DDI+FTC was found to be inferior to EFV+3TC-ZDV, so the Multinational Data Safety Monitoring Board ordered this arm of the trial to stop. Then a year later, due to the low number of treatment failures (deaths, severe HIV disease, or serious opportunistic infections) in the remaining two arms, the board advised the trial to stop early. So the researchers analyzed the data obtained up to this point and pooled the results from all of the centers.
The researchers found that during an average of 184 weeks of follow-up, there were 95 treatment failures (18%) among 526 participants taking EFV+FTC-TDF compared to 98 failures among 519 participants taking EFV+3TC-ZDV. During an average 81 weeks follow-up, there were 108 failures (21%) among 526 participants assigned to ATV+DDI+FTC and 76 (15%) among 519 participants assigned to EFV+3TC-ZDV. As for safety, 243 (46%) participants assigned to EFV+FTC-TDF reached a safety endpoint (grade 3 disease, abnormal lab measurement, or the need to change drug) compared to 313 (60%) in the EFV+3TC-ZDV group. Importantly, the researchers found that there was greater risk of safety events for women assigned to EFV+3TC-ZDV and also that the atazanavir-based regimen had a higher relative efficacy in women compared to men.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that in diverse populations, EFV+FTC-TDF is as effective as EFV+3TC-ZDV but importantly, the once-daily dosing of EFV+FTC-TDF makes this regimen useful for the initial treatment of HIV, especially in low-income countries. Therefore, as per the guidance in Treatment 2.0, EFV+FTC-TDF in a single combination tablet that can be taken once a day is an attractive option. These findings also indicate that as ATV+DDI+FTC was found to be inferior to the other regimens, this combination should not be used in the initial treatment of HIV. These findings also add to the evidence that antiretroviral efficacy and safety can differ between women and men and support further development of sex-specific recommendations for antiretroviral regimen options.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001290.
The UNAIDS website has more information about Treatment 2.0; and the WHO website provides technical information
For an introduction to the treatment of HIV/AIDS see http://www.avert.org/treatment.htm; the AVERT site also has personal stories from women living with HIV/AIDS
AIDSmap provides information for individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS
The ACTG website provides information about research to improve treatment of HIV and related complications
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001290
PMCID: PMC3419182  PMID: 22936892
16.  Reporting Methods of Blinding in Randomized Trials Assessing Nonpharmacological Treatments  
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(2):e61.
Background
Blinding is a cornerstone of treatment evaluation. Blinding is more difficult to obtain in trials assessing nonpharmacological treatment and frequently relies on “creative” (nonstandard) methods. The purpose of this study was to systematically describe the strategies used to obtain blinding in a sample of randomized controlled trials of nonpharmacological treatment.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched in Medline and the Cochrane Methodology Register for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing nonpharmacological treatment with blinding, published during 2004 in high-impact-factor journals. Data were extracted using a standardized extraction form. We identified 145 articles, with the method of blinding described in 123 of the reports. Methods of blinding of participants and/or health care providers and/or other caregivers concerned mainly use of sham procedures such as simulation of surgical procedures, similar attention-control interventions, or a placebo with a different mode of administration for rehabilitation or psychotherapy. Trials assessing devices reported various placebo interventions such as use of sham prosthesis, identical apparatus (e.g., identical but inactivated machine or use of activated machine with a barrier to block the treatment), or simulation of using a device. Blinding participants to the study hypothesis was also an important method of blinding. The methods reported for blinding outcome assessors relied mainly on centralized assessment of paraclinical examinations, clinical examinations (i.e., use of video, audiotape, photography), or adjudications of clinical events.
Conclusions
This study classifies blinding methods and provides a detailed description of methods that could overcome some barriers of blinding in clinical trials assessing nonpharmacological treatment, and provides information for readers assessing the quality of results of such trials.
An assessment of blinding methods used in nonpharmacological trials published in one year in high-impact factor journals classifies methods used and describes methods that could overcome some barriers of blinding.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Well-conducted “randomized controlled trials” are generally considered to be the most reliable source of information about the effects of medical treatments. In a randomized trial, the play of chance is used to decide whether each patient receives the treatment under investigation, or whether he/she is assigned to a “control” group receiving the standard treatment for their condition. This helps makes sure that the two groups of patients receiving the different treatments are equivalent at the start of the trial. Proper randomization also prevents doctors from deciding which treatment individual patients are given, which could distort the results. An additional technique used is “blinding,” which involves taking steps to prevent patients, doctors, or other people involved in the trial (e.g., those recording measurements) from finding out which patients have received which treatment. Properly done, blinding should make sure the results of a trial are more accurate. This is because in an unblinded study, participants may respond better if they know they have received a promising new treatment (or worse if they only got a placebo or an old drug). In addition, doctors and others in the research team may “want” a particular treatment to perform better in the trial, and unthinking bias could creep into their measurements or actions. However, blinding is not a simple, single step; the people carrying out the trial often have to set up a variety of different procedures.
Why Was This Study Done?
The authors of this study had already conducted research into the way in which blinding is done in trials involving drug (“pharmacological”) treatment. Their work was published in October 2006 in PLoS Medicine. However, concealing from patients the type of pill that they are being given is much easier than, for example, concealing whether or not they are having surgery or whether or not they are having psychotherapy. The authors therefore set out to look at the methods that are in use for blinding in nonpharmacological trials. They hoped that a better understanding of the different blinding methods would help people doing trials to design better trials in the future, and also help readers to interpret the quality of completed trials.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors systematically searched the published medical literature to find all randomized, blinded drug trials published in just one year (2004) in a number of different “high-impact” journals (well-regarded journals whose articles are often mentioned in other articles). Then, they classified information from the published trial reports. They ended up with 145 trial reports, of which 123 described how blinding was done. The trials covered a wide range of medical conditions and types of treatment. The blinding methods used mainly involved the use of “sham” procedures. Thus, in 80% of the studies in which the treatment involved a medical device, a pretend device had been used to make patients in the control group think they were receiving treatment. In many of the treatments involving surgery, researchers had devised elaborate ways of making patients think they had had an operation. When the treatment involved manipulation (e.g. physiotherapy or chiropractic), fake “hands-on” techniques were given to the control patients. The authors of this systematic review classify all the other techniques that were used to blind both the patients and members of the research teams. They found that some highly innovative ideas have been successfully put into practice.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The authors have provided a detailed description of methods that could overcome some barriers of blinding in clinical trials assessing nonpharmacological treatment. The classification of the techniques used will be useful for other researchers considering what sort of blinding they will use in their own research.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040061.
The James Lind Library has been created to help patients and researchers understand fair tests of treatments in health care by illustrating how fair tests have developed over the centuries
ClinicalTrials.gov, a trial registry created by the US National Institutes of Health, has an introduction to understanding clinical trials
The UK National Health Service National Electronic Library for Health has an introduction to controlled clinical trials
The CONSORT statement is intended to strengthen evidence-based reporting of clinical trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040061
PMCID: PMC1800311  PMID: 17311468
17.  Strategies for Increasing Recruitment to Randomised Controlled Trials: Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(11):e1000368.
Patrina Caldwell and colleagues performed a systematic review of randomized studies that compared methods of recruiting individual study participants into trials, and found that strategies that focus on increasing potential participants' awareness of the specific health problem, and that engaged them, appeared to increase recruitment.
Background
Recruitment of participants into randomised controlled trials (RCTs) is critical for successful trial conduct. Although there have been two previous systematic reviews on related topics, the results (which identified specific interventions) were inconclusive and not generalizable. The aim of our study was to evaluate the relative effectiveness of recruitment strategies for participation in RCTs.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review, using the PRISMA guideline for reporting of systematic reviews, that compared methods of recruiting individual study participants into an actual or mock RCT were included. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and reference lists of relevant studies. From over 16,000 titles or abstracts reviewed, 396 papers were retrieved and 37 studies were included, in which 18,812 of at least 59,354 people approached agreed to participate in a clinical RCT. Recruitment strategies were broadly divided into four groups: novel trial designs (eight studies), recruiter differences (eight studies), incentives (two studies), and provision of trial information (19 studies). Strategies that increased people's awareness of the health problem being studied (e.g., an interactive computer program [relative risk (RR) 1.48, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00–2.18], attendance at an education session [RR 1.14, 95% CI 1.01–1.28], addition of a health questionnaire [RR 1.37, 95% CI 1.14–1.66]), or a video about the health condition (RR 1.75, 95% CI 1.11–2.74), and also monetary incentives (RR1.39, 95% CI 1.13–1.64 to RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.28–1.84) improved recruitment. Increasing patients' understanding of the trial process, recruiter differences, and various methods of randomisation and consent design did not show a difference in recruitment. Consent rates were also higher for nonblinded trial design, but differential loss to follow up between groups may jeopardise the study findings. The study's main limitation was the necessity of modifying the search strategy with subsequent search updates because of changes in MEDLINE definitions. The abstracts of previous versions of this systematic review were published in 2002 and 2007.
Conclusion
Recruitment strategies that focus on increasing potential participants' awareness of the health problem being studied, its potential impact on their health, and their engagement in the learning process appeared to increase recruitment to clinical studies. Further trials of recruitment strategies that target engaging participants to increase their awareness of the health problems being studied and the potential impact on their health may confirm this hypothesis.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Before any health care intervention—a treatment for a disease or a measure such as vaccination that is designed to prevent an illness—is adopted by the medical community, it undergoes exhaustive laboratory-based and clinical research. In the laboratory, scientists investigate the causes of diseases, identify potential new treatments or preventive methods, and test these interventions in animals. New interventions that look hopeful are then investigated in clinical trials—studies that test these interventions in people by following a strict trial protocol or action plan. Phase I trials test interventions in a few healthy volunteers or patients to evaluate their safety and to identify possible side effects. In phase II trials, a larger group of patients receives an intervention to evaluate its safety further and to get an initial idea of its effectiveness. In phase III trials, very large groups of patients (sometimes in excess of a thousand people) are randomly assigned to receive the new intervention or an established intervention or placebo (dummy intervention). These “randomized controlled trials” or “RCTs” provide the most reliable information about the effectiveness and safety of health care interventions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Patients who participate in clinical trials must fulfill the inclusion criteria laid down in the trial protocol and must be given information about the trial, its risks, and potential benefits before agreeing to participate (informed consent). Unfortunately, many RCTs struggle to enroll the number of patients specified in their trial protocol, which can reduce a trial's ability to measure the effect of a new intervention. Inadequate recruitment can also increase costs and, in the worst cases, prevent trial completion. Several strategies have been developed to improve recruitment but it is not clear which strategy works best. In this study, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) of “recruitment trials”—studies that have randomly divided potential RCT participants into groups, applied different strategies for recruitment to each group, and compared recruitment rates in the groups.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 37 randomized trials of recruitment strategies into real and mock RCTs (where no actual trial occurred). In all, 18,812 people agreed to participate in an RCT in these recruitment trials out of at least 59,354 people approached. Some of these trials investigated novel strategies for recruitment, such as changes in how patients are randomized. Others looked at the effect of recruiter differences (for example, increased contact between the health care professionals doing the recruiting and the trial investigators), the effect of offering monetary incentives to participants, and the effect of giving more information about the trial to potential participants. Recruitment strategies that improved people's awareness of the health problem being studied—provision of an interactive computer program or a video about the health condition, attendance at an educational session, or inclusion of a health questionnaire in the recruitment process—improved recruitment rates, as did monetary incentives. Increasing patients' understanding about the trial process itself, recruiter differences, and alterations in consent design and randomization generally had no effect on recruitment rates although consent rates were higher when patients knew the treatment to which they had been randomly allocated before consenting. However, differential losses among the patients in different treatment groups in such nonblinded trials may jeopardize study findings.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that trial recruitment strategies that focus on increasing the awareness of potential participants of the health problem being studied and its possible effects on their health, and that engage potential participants in the trial process are likely to increase recruitment to RCTs. The accuracy of these findings depends on whether the researchers identified all the published research on recruitment strategies and on whether other research on recruitment strategies has been undertaken and not published that could alter these findings. Furthermore, because about half of the recruitment trials identified by the researchers were undertaken in the US, the successful strategies identified here might not be generalizable to other countries. Nevertheless, these recruitment strategies should now be investigated further to ensure that the future evaluation of new health care interventions is not hampered by poor recruitment into RCTs.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000368.
The ClinicalTrials.gov Web site is a searchable register of federally and privately supported clinical trials in the US and around the world, providing information about all aspects of clinical trials
The US National Institutes of Health provides information about clinical trials
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has information for patients about clinical trials and medical research
The UK Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Units also provides information for patients about clinical trials and links to information on clinical trials provided by other organizations
MedlinePlus has links to further resources on clinical trials (in English and Spanish)
The Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council has information about clinical trials
WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform aims to ensure that all trials are publicly accessible to those making health care decisions
The Star Child Health International Forum of Standards for Research is a resource center for pediatric clinical trial design, conduct, and reporting
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000368
PMCID: PMC2976724  PMID: 21085696
18.  Reasons for Ineligibility in Phase 1 and 2A HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials at Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI), Kenya 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e14580.
Background
With the persistent challenges towards controlling the HIV epidemic, there is an ongoing need for research into HIV vaccines and drugs. Sub-Saharan African countries - worst affected by the HIV pandemic - have participated in the conduct of clinical trials for HIV vaccines. In Kenya, the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) at the University of Nairobi has conducted HIV vaccine clinical trials since 2001.
Methodology
Participants were recruited after an extensive informed consent process followed by screening to determine eligibility. Screening included an assessment of risk behavior, medical history and physical examination, and if clinically healthy, laboratory testing. In the absence of locally derived laboratory reference ranges, the ranges used in these trials were derived from populations in the West.
Principal findings
Two hundred eighty-one participants were screened between 2003 and 2006 for two clinical trials. Of these, 167 (59.4%) met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Overall, laboratory abnormalities based on the non-indigenous laboratory references used were the most frequent reasons (61.4%) for ineligibility. Medical abnormalities contributed 30.7% of the total reasons for ineligibility. Based on the laboratory reference intervals now developed from East and Southern Africa, those ineligible due to laboratory abnormalities would have been 46.3%. Of the eligible participants, 18.6% declined enrolment.
Conclusions
Participant recruitment for HIV vaccine clinical trials is a rigorous and time-consuming exercise. Over 61% of the screening exclusions in clinically healthy people were due to laboratory abnormalities. It is essential that laboratory reference ranges generated from local populations for laboratory values be used in the conduct of clinical trials to avoid unnecessary exclusion of willing participants and to avoid over-reporting of adverse events for enrolled participants.
Trial registration
Protocol IAVI VRC V001 [1]. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00124007 Protocol IAVI 010 [2] (registration with ClincalTrials.gov is in progress)
Protocols IAVI 002 and IAVI 004 are Phase 1 trials only mentioned in introductory paragraphs; details will not be reported. Registration was not required when they were conducted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014580
PMCID: PMC3024980  PMID: 21283743
19.  Reporting Bias in Drug Trials Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration: Review of Publication and Presentation 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(11):e217.
Background
Previous studies of drug trials submitted to regulatory authorities have documented selective reporting of both entire trials and favorable results. The objective of this study is to determine the publication rate of efficacy trials submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in approved New Drug Applications (NDAs) and to compare the trial characteristics as reported by the FDA with those reported in publications.
Methods and Findings
This is an observational study of all efficacy trials found in approved NDAs for New Molecular Entities (NMEs) from 2001 to 2002 inclusive and all published clinical trials corresponding to the trials within the NDAs. For each trial included in the NDA, we assessed its publication status, primary outcome(s) reported and their statistical significance, and conclusions. Seventy-eight percent (128/164) of efficacy trials contained in FDA reviews of NDAs were published. In a multivariate model, trials with favorable primary outcomes (OR = 4.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.33–17.1, p = 0.018) and active controls (OR = 3.4, 95% CI 1.02–11.2, p = 0.047) were more likely to be published. Forty-one primary outcomes from the NDAs were omitted from the papers. Papers included 155 outcomes that were in the NDAs, 15 additional outcomes that favored the test drug, and two other neutral or unknown additional outcomes. Excluding outcomes with unknown significance, there were 43 outcomes in the NDAs that did not favor the NDA drug. Of these, 20 (47%) were not included in the papers. The statistical significance of five of the remaining 23 outcomes (22%) changed between the NDA and the paper, with four changing to favor the test drug in the paper (p = 0.38). Excluding unknowns, 99 conclusions were provided in both NDAs and papers, nine conclusions (9%) changed from the FDA review of the NDA to the paper, and all nine did so to favor the test drug (100%, 95% CI 72%–100%, p = 0.0039).
Conclusions
Many trials were still not published 5 y after FDA approval. Discrepancies between the trial information reviewed by the FDA and information found in published trials tended to lead to more favorable presentations of the NDA drugs in the publications. Thus, the information that is readily available in the scientific literature to health care professionals is incomplete and potentially biased.
Lisa Bero and colleagues review the publication status of all efficacy trials carried out in support of new drug approvals from 2001 and 2002, and find that a quarter of trials remain unpublished.
Editors' Summary
Background.
All health-care professionals want their patients to have the best available clinical care—but how can they identify the optimum drug or intervention? In the past, clinicians used their own experience or advice from colleagues to make treatment decisions. Nowadays, they rely on evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of clinical research findings. So, for example, before a new drug is approved for the treatment of a specific disease in the United States and becomes available for doctors to prescribe, the drug's sponsors (usually a pharmaceutical company) must submit a “New Drug Application” (NDA) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The NDA tells the story of the drug's development from laboratory and animal studies through to clinical trials, including “efficacy” trials in which the efficacy and safety of the new drug and of a standard drug for the disease are compared by giving groups of patients the different drugs and measuring several key (primary) “outcomes.” FDA reviewers use this evidence to decide whether to approve a drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the information in NDAs is publicly available, clinicians and patients usually learn about new drugs from articles published in medical journals after drug approval. Unfortunately, drug sponsors sometimes publish the results only of the trials in which their drug performed well and in which statistical analyses indicate that the drug's improved performance was a real effect rather than a lucky coincidence. Trials in which a drug did not show a “statistically significant benefit” or where the drug was found to have unwanted side effects often remain unpublished. This “publication bias” means that the scientific literature can contain an inaccurate picture of a drug's efficacy and safety relative to other therapies. This may lead to clinicians preferentially prescribing newer, more expensive drugs that are not necessarily better than older drugs. In this study, the researchers test the hypothesis that not all the trial results in NDAs are published in medical journals. They also investigate whether there are any discrepancies between the trial data included in NDAs and in published articles.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified all the efficacy trials included in NDAs for totally new drugs that were approved by the FDA in 2001 and 2002 and searched the scientific literature for publications between July 2006 and June 2007 relating to these trials. Only three-quarters of the efficacy trials in the NDAs were published; trials with favorable outcomes were nearly five times as likely to be published as those without favorable outcomes. Although 155 primary outcomes were in both the papers and the NDAs, 41 outcomes were only in the NDAs. Conversely, 17 outcomes were only in the papers; 15 of these favored the test drug. Of the 43 primary outcomes reported in the NDAs that showed no statistically significant benefit for the test drug, only half were included in the papers; for five of the reported primary outcomes, the statistical significance differed between the NDA and the paper and generally favored the test drug in the papers. Finally, nine out of 99 conclusions differed between the NDAs and the papers; each time, the published conclusion favored the test drug.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the results of many trials of new drugs are not published 5 years after FDA approval of the drug. Furthermore, unexplained discrepancies between the data and conclusions in NDAs and in medical journals are common and tend to paint a more favorable picture of the new drug in the scientific literature than in the NDAs. Overall, these findings suggest that the information on the efficacy of new drugs that is readily available to clinicians and patients through the published scientific literature is incomplete and potentially biased. The recent introduction in the US and elsewhere of mandatory registration of all clinical trials before they start and of mandatory publication in trial registers of the full results of all the predefined primary outcomes should reduce publication bias over the next few years and should allow clinicians and patients to make fully informed treatment decisions.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050217.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by An-Wen Chan
PLoS Medicine recently published a related article by Ida Sim and colleagues: Lee K, Bacchetti P, Sim I (2008) Publication of clinical trials supporting successful new drug applications: A literature analysis. PLoS Med 5: e191. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050191
The Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health-care professionals; detailed information about the process by which drugs are approved is on the Web site of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (in English and Spanish)
NDAs for approved drugs can also be found on this Web site
The ClinicalTrials.gov Web site provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, background information about clinical trials, and a fact sheet detailing the requirements of the FDA Amendments Act 2007 for trial registration
The World Health Organization's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform is working toward setting international norms and standards for the reporting of clinical trials (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050217
PMCID: PMC2586350  PMID: 19067477
20.  Evidence for the Selective Reporting of Analyses and Discrepancies in Clinical Trials: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies of Clinical Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001666.
In a systematic review of cohort studies, Kerry Dwan and colleagues examine the evidence for selective reporting and discrepancies in analyses between journal publications and other documents for clinical trials.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Most publications about selective reporting in clinical trials have focussed on outcomes. However, selective reporting of analyses for a given outcome may also affect the validity of findings. If analyses are selected on the basis of the results, reporting bias may occur. The aims of this study were to review and summarise the evidence from empirical cohort studies that assessed discrepant or selective reporting of analyses in randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Methods and Findings
A systematic review was conducted and included cohort studies that assessed any aspect of the reporting of analyses of RCTs by comparing different trial documents, e.g., protocol compared to trial report, or different sections within a trial publication. The Cochrane Methodology Register, Medline (Ovid), PsycInfo (Ovid), and PubMed were searched on 5 February 2014. Two authors independently selected studies, performed data extraction, and assessed the methodological quality of the eligible studies. Twenty-two studies (containing 3,140 RCTs) published between 2000 and 2013 were included. Twenty-two studies reported on discrepancies between information given in different sources. Discrepancies were found in statistical analyses (eight studies), composite outcomes (one study), the handling of missing data (three studies), unadjusted versus adjusted analyses (three studies), handling of continuous data (three studies), and subgroup analyses (12 studies). Discrepancy rates varied, ranging from 7% (3/42) to 88% (7/8) in statistical analyses, 46% (36/79) to 82% (23/28) in adjusted versus unadjusted analyses, and 61% (11/18) to 100% (25/25) in subgroup analyses. This review is limited in that none of the included studies investigated the evidence for bias resulting from selective reporting of analyses. It was not possible to combine studies to provide overall summary estimates, and so the results of studies are discussed narratively.
Conclusions
Discrepancies in analyses between publications and other study documentation were common, but reasons for these discrepancies were not discussed in the trial reports. To ensure transparency, protocols and statistical analysis plans need to be published, and investigators should adhere to these or explain discrepancies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the past, clinicians relied on their own experience when choosing the best treatment for their patients. Nowadays, they turn to evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of trials, studies that investigate the benefits and harms of medical treatments in patients. However, evidence-based medicine can guide clinicians only if all the results from clinical trials are published in an unbiased and timely manner. Unfortunately, the results of trials in which a new drug performs better than existing drugs are more likely to be published than those in which the new drug performs badly or has unwanted side effects (publication bias). Moreover, trial outcomes that support the use of a new treatment are more likely to be published than those that do not support its use (outcome reporting bias). Recent initiatives—such as making registration of clinical trials in a trial registry (for example, ClinicalTrials.gov) a prerequisite for publication in medical journals—aim to prevent these biases, which pose a threat to informed medical decision-making.
Why Was This Study Done?
Selective reporting of analyses of outcomes may also affect the validity of clinical trial findings. Sometimes, for example, a trial publication will include a per protocol analysis (which considers only the outcomes of patients who received their assigned treatment) rather than a pre-planned intention-to-treat analysis (which considers the outcomes of all the patients regardless of whether they received their assigned treatment). If the decision to publish the per protocol analysis is based on the results of this analysis being more favorable than those of the intention-to-treat analysis (which more closely resembles “real” life), then “analysis reporting bias” has occurred. In this systematic review, the researchers investigate the selective reporting of analyses and discrepancies in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) by reviewing published studies that assessed selective reporting of analyses in groups (cohorts) of RCTs and discrepancies in analyses of RCTs between different sources (for example, between the protocol in a trial registry and the journal publication) or different sections of a source. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 22 cohort studies (containing 3,140 RCTs) that were eligible for inclusion in their systematic review. All of these studies reported on discrepancies between the information provided by the RCTs in different places, but none investigated the evidence for analysis reporting bias. Several of the cohort studies reported, for example, that there were discrepancies in the statistical analyses included in the different documents associated with the RCTs included in their analysis. Other types of discrepancies reported by the cohort studies included discrepancies in the reporting of composite outcomes (an outcome in which multiple end points are combined) and in the reporting of subgroup analyses (investigations of outcomes in subgroups of patients that should be predefined in the trial protocol to avoid bias). Discrepancy rates varied among the RCTs according to the types of analyses and cohort studies considered. Thus, whereas in one cohort study discrepancies were present in the statistical test used for the analysis of the primary outcome in only 7% of the included studies, they were present in the subgroup analyses of all the included studies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that discrepancies in analyses between publications and other study documents such as protocols in trial registries are common. The reasons for these discrepancies in analyses were not discussed in trial reports but may be the result of reporting bias, errors, or legitimate departures from a pre-specified protocol. For example, a statistical analysis that is not specified in the trial protocol may sometimes appear in a publication because the journal requested its inclusion as a condition of publication. The researchers suggest that it may be impossible for systematic reviewers to distinguish between these possibilities simply by looking at the source documentation. Instead, they suggest, it may be necessary for reviewers to contact the trial authors. However, to make selective reporting of analyses more easily detectable, they suggest that protocols and analysis plans should be published and that investigators should be required to stick to these plans or explain any discrepancies when they publish their trial results. Together with other initiatives, this approach should help improve the quality of evidence-based medicine and, as a result, the treatment of patients.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001666.
Wikipedia has pages on evidence-based medicine, on systematic reviews, and on publication bias (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, including background information about clinical trials
The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of health practitioners, researchers, patient advocates, and others that aims to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing high-quality, relevant, accessible systematic reviews and other synthesized research evidence; the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions describes the preparation of systematic reviews in detail
PLOS Medicine recently launched a Reporting Guidelines Collection, an open-access collection of reporting guidelines, commentary, and related research on guidelines from across PLOS journals that aims to help advance the efficiency, effectiveness, and equitability of the dissemination of biomedical information
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001666
PMCID: PMC4068996  PMID: 24959719
21.  Loperamide Therapy for Acute Diarrhea in Children: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e98.
Background
Loperamide is widely used in adults for acute diarrhea. However, its use in children has been discouraged by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics owing to concerns over safety and efficacy in young children.
Methods and Findings
To assess the efficacy and adverse effects of loperamide compared with placebo for acute diarrhea in children, we reviewed Medline, EMBase, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and bibliographies of known clinical trials and of review articles, and we also interviewed key investigators in the field. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of children younger than 12 y of age with acute diarrhea, comparing loperamide with placebo. Included trials reported data on diarrhea duration or severity, or provided data on adverse effects. Compared with patients who received placebo, patients allocated to loperamide were less likely to continue to have diarrhea at 24 h (prevalence ratio 0.66, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.57 to 0.78), had a shorter duration of diarrhea by 0.8 d (95% CI: 0.7 to 0.9 d), and had a lower count of stools at 24 h (0.84, 95% CI: 0.77 to 0.92). Results were similar when random-effects summaries were estimated. Serious adverse events, defined as ileus, lethargy, or death, were reported in eight out of 927 children allocated to loperamide (0.9%, 95% CI: 0.4% to 1.7%). Serious adverse events were not reported in any of the 764 children allocated to placebo (0%, 95% CI: 0% to 0.5%). Among the children allocated to loperamide, serious adverse events were reported only among children younger than 3 y.
Conclusions
In children who are younger than 3 y, malnourished, moderately or severely dehydrated, systemically ill, or have bloody diarrhea, adverse events outweigh benefits even at doses ≤0.25 mg/kg/d. In children who are older than 3 y with no/minimal dehydration, loperamide may be a useful adjunct to oral rehydration and early refeeding.
In seriously ill children under 3 years of age with diarrhea the adverse effects of loperamide outweighed the benefits, but the drug could be useful as part of treatment for other children.
Editors' Summary
Background.
While diarrhea is often thought of as a mild, inconvenient condition, it is estimated that, worldwide, 1.6–2.5 million children under 5 y old die each year from diarrhea, most of them in developing countries. Dehydration is the key factor in the deaths of these children. In richer countries, diarrhea is rarely deadly, but it has been calculated that, in the United States, the annual national health-care cost associated with the condition amounts to around US$1.5 billion. Some of the cost results from the purchase of anti-diarrheal drugs. Loperamide is one of the most widely used of these drugs. In most countries, it can be obtained without a prescription. The use of loperamide is intended to reduce the frequency of bowel movements, but taking it will not lead to rehydration, nor will it kill the infectious organisms responsible for the condition.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization and other health authorities have concerns that loperamide may not be effective in young children and that it may not be safe. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration approves its use for children older than 2 y of age. The researchers wanted to know whether loperamide could play a useful part in treating diarrhea in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They did not do any new work with children suffering from diarrhea. Instead, they searched the medical literature for previously conducted trials involving the use of loperamide. They used these previously conducted trials to estimate whether use of loperamide influenced the duration of diarrhea or the number of diarrheal stools in children under 12 y of age. They also used these trials to examine adverse effects of loperamide. In total they found 13 studies that met the criteria they had set for inclusion in their study. More than 900 children in these studies had been given loperamide for their diarrhea; each trial also had a control group of children whose treatment did not include loperamide. Most of the children in the studies had only mild diarrhea. The researchers found that, compared with children in the control groups, those treated with loperamide were less likely to continue to have diarrhea 24 h later, had a shorter duration of diarrhea, and had a lower count of diarrheal stools. However, eight of the children given loperamide and none of the control group did have serious adverse effects. All those who had serious adverse effects were less than 3 y of age.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers concluded that if a child is less than 3 y of age, malnourished, moderately or severely dehydrated, or has bloody diarrhea, the risk of adverse events from loperamide treatment outweighs the benefits, even at low doses. In other children, loperamide may be a useful part of treatment. However, they advise that rehydrating the child (by giving fluids orally) and progressively returning him or her to a normal diet should still be the main focus in the treatment of childhood diarrhea.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040098.
For advice on the treatment of diarrhea, visit the Web sites of BestTreatments (produced by BMJ Publications) and of FamilyDoctor (produced by the American Academy of Family Physicians)
The World Health Organization has a Web page about diarrhea that gives a global perspective on this major cause of childhood death
UNICEF (the children's organization of the United Nations) includes diarrhea in its Facts for Life series, which aims to provide parents and other caregivers with the information they need to save and improve children's lives; the messages contained in Facts for Life are based on the latest scientific findings, but are presented in nontechnical language
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040098
PMCID: PMC1831735  PMID: 17388664
22.  Red Blood Cell Transfusion and Mortality in Trauma Patients: Risk-Stratified Analysis of an Observational Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001664.
Using a large multicentre cohort, Pablo Perel and colleagues evaluate the association of red blood cell transfusion with mortality according to the predicted risk of death for trauma patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Haemorrhage is a common cause of death in trauma patients. Although transfusions are extensively used in the care of bleeding trauma patients, there is uncertainty about the balance of risks and benefits and how this balance depends on the baseline risk of death. Our objective was to evaluate the association of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion with mortality according to the predicted risk of death.
Methods and Findings
A secondary analysis of the CRASH-2 trial (which originally evaluated the effect of tranexamic acid on mortality in trauma patients) was conducted. The trial included 20,127 trauma patients with significant bleeding from 274 hospitals in 40 countries. We evaluated the association of RBC transfusion with mortality in four strata of predicted risk of death: <6%, 6%–20%, 21%–50%, and >50%. For this analysis the exposure considered was RBC transfusion, and the main outcome was death from all causes at 28 days. A total of 10,227 patients (50.8%) received at least one transfusion. We found strong evidence that the association of transfusion with all-cause mortality varied according to the predicted risk of death (p-value for interaction <0.0001). Transfusion was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality among patients with <6% and 6%–20% predicted risk of death (odds ratio [OR] 5.40, 95% CI 4.08–7.13, p<0.0001, and OR 2.31, 95% CI 1.96–2.73, p<0.0001, respectively), but with a decrease in all-cause mortality in patients with >50% predicted risk of death (OR 0.59, 95% CI 0.47–0.74, p<0.0001). Transfusion was associated with an increase in fatal and non-fatal vascular events (OR 2.58, 95% CI 2.05–3.24, p<0.0001). The risk associated with RBC transfusion was significantly increased for all the predicted risk of death categories, but the relative increase was higher for those with the lowest (<6%) predicted risk of death (p-value for interaction <0.0001). As this was an observational study, the results could have been affected by different types of confounding. In addition, we could not consider haemoglobin in our analysis. In sensitivity analyses, excluding patients who died early; conducting propensity score analysis adjusting by use of platelets, fresh frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate; and adjusting for country produced results that were similar.
Conclusions
The association of transfusion with all-cause mortality appears to vary according to the predicted risk of death. Transfusion may reduce mortality in patients at high risk of death but increase mortality in those at low risk. The effect of transfusion in low-risk patients should be further tested in a randomised trial.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01746953
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Trauma—a serious injury to the body caused by violence or an accident—is a major global health problem. Every year, injuries caused by traffic collisions, falls, blows, and other traumatic events kill more than 5 million people (9% of annual global deaths). Indeed, for people between the ages of 5 and 44 years, injuries are among the top three causes of death in many countries. Trauma sometimes kills people through physical damage to the brain and other internal organs, but hemorrhage (serious uncontrolled bleeding) is responsible for 30%–40% of trauma-related deaths. Consequently, early trauma care focuses on minimizing hemorrhage (for example, by using compression to stop bleeding) and on restoring blood circulation after blood loss (health-care professionals refer to this as resuscitation). Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion is often used for the management of patients with trauma who are bleeding; other resuscitation products include isotonic saline and solutions of human blood proteins.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although RBC transfusion can save the lives of patients with trauma who are bleeding, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the balance of risks and benefits associated with this procedure. RBC transfusion, which is an expensive intervention, is associated with several potential adverse effects, including allergic reactions and infections. Moreover, blood supplies are limited, and the risks from transfusion are high in low- and middle-income countries, where most trauma-related deaths occur. In this study, which is a secondary analysis of data from a trial (CRASH-2) that evaluated the effect of tranexamic acid (which stops excessive bleeding) in patients with trauma, the researchers test the hypothesis that RBC transfusion may have a beneficial effect among patients at high risk of death following trauma but a harmful effect among those at low risk of death.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The CRASH-2 trail included 20,127 patients with trauma and major bleeding treated in 274 hospitals in 40 countries. In their risk-stratified analysis, the researchers investigated the effect of RBC transfusion on CRASH-2 participants with a predicted risk of death (estimated using a validated model that included clinical variables such as heart rate and blood pressure) on admission to hospital of less than 6%, 6%–20%, 21%–50%, or more than 50%. That is, the researchers compared death rates among patients in each stratum of predicted risk of death who received a RBC transfusion with death rates among patients who did not receive a transfusion. Half the patients received at least one transfusion. Transfusion was associated with an increase in all-cause mortality at 28 days after trauma among patients with a predicted risk of death of less than 6% or of 6%–20%, but with a decrease in all-cause mortality among patients with a predicted risk of death of more than 50%. In absolute figures, compared to no transfusion, RBC transfusion was associated with 5.1 more deaths per 100 patients in the patient group with the lowest predicted risk of death but with 11.9 fewer deaths per 100 patients in the group with the highest predicted risk of death.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that RBC transfusion is associated with an increase in all-cause deaths among patients with trauma and major bleeding with a low predicted risk of death, but with a reduction in all-cause deaths among patients with a high predicted risk of death. In other words, these findings suggest that the effect of RBC transfusion on all-cause mortality may vary according to whether a patient with trauma has a high or low predicted risk of death. However, because the participants in the CRASH-2 trial were not randomly assigned to receive a RBC transfusion, it is not possible to conclude that receiving a RBC transfusion actually increased the death rate among patients with a low predicted risk of death. It might be that the patients with this level of predicted risk of death who received a transfusion shared other unknown characteristics (confounders) that were actually responsible for their increased death rate. Thus, to provide better guidance for clinicians caring for patients with trauma and hemorrhage, the hypothesis that RBC transfusion could be harmful among patients with trauma with a low predicted risk of death should be prospectively evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001664.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Druin Burch
The World Health Organization provides information on injuries and on violence and injury prevention (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on injury and violence prevention and control
The National Trauma Institute, a US-based non-profit organization, provides information about hemorrhage after trauma and personal stories about surviving trauma
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about blood transfusion, including a personal story about transfusion after a serious road accident
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also provides detailed information about blood transfusions
MedlinePlus provides links to further resources on injuries, bleeding, and blood transfusion (in English and Spanish)
More information in available about CRASH-2 (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001664
PMCID: PMC4060995  PMID: 24937305
23.  Forty-five years of schizophrenia trials in Italy: a survey 
Trials  2012;13:35.
Background
Well-designed and properly executed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provide the best evidence on the efficacy of healthcare interventions. Mental health has a strong tradition of using trial to evaluate treatments, but the translation of research to clinical practice is not always easy. Even well-conducted trials do not necessarily address the needs of every day care and trials can reflect local needs and the specific culture in which they are undertaken. Generalizing results to other contexts can become problematic but these trials may, nevertheless, be very helpful within their own context. Moreover, pathways for drug approval can be different depending on local regulatory agencies. Local trials are helpful for decision-making in the region from which they come, but should not be viewed in isolation. National quantity and quality of trials may vary across nations.
The aim of this study is to quantify trialing activity in Italy from 1948 until 2009 and to describe characteristics of these trials. In addition, we evaluated change over time in three keys aspects: sample size, follow-up duration, and number of outcomes.
Methods
We used the Cochrane Schizophrenia Group's register that contains 16,000 citations to 13,000 studies relating only to people with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illness. Randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials undertaken in Italy and involving pharmacological interventions were included.
Results
The original search identified 155 records of potentially eligible studies, 74 of which were excluded because do not meet inclusion criteria. A total of 81 studies were included in the analysis. The majority of trials were conducted in north Italy, and published in international journals between 1981 and 1995. The majority of studies (52 out of 81) used standardized diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia disorder. They were defined as randomized and used blind methods to administer treatment. However, most failed to report detail regarding methodological procedures and it is difficult to ascertain which studies are associated with a low risk of bias.
Conclusions
Trials should be designed to address the needs of everyday care with the aim of following large samples of typical patients in the long term. The Italian tradition in the area of trialing treatments for people with schizophrenia is not as strong as in many other similar countries and Italy should be producing more, better, independent, and clinically relevant trials.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-13-35
PMCID: PMC3362749  PMID: 22497735
schizophrenia; psychopharmacology; quality; randomized controlled trials; Italy
24.  Methods of Blinding in Reports of Randomized Controlled Trials Assessing Pharmacologic Treatments: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e425.
Background
Blinding is a cornerstone of therapeutic evaluation because lack of blinding can bias treatment effect estimates. An inventory of the blinding methods would help trialists conduct high-quality clinical trials and readers appraise the quality of results of published trials. We aimed to systematically classify and describe methods to establish and maintain blinding of patients and health care providers and methods to obtain blinding of outcome assessors in randomized controlled trials of pharmacologic treatments.
Methods and Findings
We undertook a systematic review of all reports of randomized controlled trials assessing pharmacologic treatments with blinding published in 2004 in high impact-factor journals from Medline and the Cochrane Methodology Register. We used a standardized data collection form to extract data. The blinding methods were classified according to whether they primarily (1) established blinding of patients or health care providers, (2) maintained the blinding of patients or health care providers, and (3) obtained blinding of assessors of the main outcomes. We identified 819 articles, with 472 (58%) describing the method of blinding. Methods to establish blinding of patients and/or health care providers concerned mainly treatments provided in identical form, specific methods to mask some characteristics of the treatments (e.g., added flavor or opaque coverage), or use of double dummy procedures or simulation of an injection. Methods to avoid unblinding of patients and/or health care providers involved use of active placebo, centralized assessment of side effects, patients informed only in part about the potential side effects of each treatment, centralized adapted dosage, or provision of sham results of complementary investigations. The methods reported for blinding outcome assessors mainly relied on a centralized assessment of complementary investigations, clinical examination (i.e., use of video, audiotape, or photography), or adjudication of clinical events.
Conclusions
This review classifies blinding methods and provides a detailed description of methods that could help trialists overcome some barriers to blinding in clinical trials and readers interpret the quality of pharmalogic trials.
Following a systematic review of all reports of randomized controlled trials assessing pharmacologic treatments involving blinding, a classification of blinding methods is proposed.
Editors' Summary
Background.
In evidence-based medicine, good-quality randomized controlled trials are generally considered to be the most reliable source of information about the effects of different treatments, such as drugs. In a randomized trial, patients are assigned to receive one treatment or another by the play of chance. This technique helps makes sure that the two groups of patients receiving the different treatments are equivalent at the start of the trial. Proper randomization also prevents doctors from controlling or affecting which treatment patients get, which could distort the results. An additional tool that is also used to make trials more precise is “blinding.” Blinding involves taking steps to prevent patients, doctors, or other people involved in the trial (e.g., those people recording measurements) from finding out which patients got what treatment. Properly done, blinding should make sure the results of a trial are more accurate. This is because in an unblinded study, participants may respond better if they know they have received a promising new treatment (or worse if they only got placebo or an old drug); doctors may “want” a particular treatment to do better in the trial, and unthinking bias could creep into their measurements or actions; the same applies for practitioners and researchers who record patients' outcomes in the trial. However, blinding is not a simple, single step; the people carrying out the trial often have to set up a variety of different procedures that depend on the type of trial that is being done.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers here wanted to thoroughly examine different methods that have been used to achieve blinding in randomized trials of drug treatments, and to describe and classify them. They hoped that a better understanding of the different blinding methods would help people doing trials to design better trials in the future, and also help readers to interpret the quality of trials that had been done.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This group of researchers conducted what is called a “systematic review.” They systematically searched the published medical literature to find all randomized, blinded drug trials published in 2004 in a number of different “high-impact” journals (journals whose articles are often mentioned in other articles). Then, the researchers classified information from the published trial reports. The researchers ended up with 819 trial reports, and nearly 60% of them described how blinding was done. Their classification of blinding was divided up into three main areas. First, they detailed methods used to hide which drugs are given to particular patients, such as preparing identically appearing treatments; using strong flavors to mask taste; matching the colors of pills; using saline injections and so on. Second, they described a number of methods that could be used to reduce the risk of unblinding (of doctors or patients), such as using an “active placebo” (a sugar pill that mimics some of the expected side effects of the drug treatment). Finally, they defined methods for blinded measurement of outcomes (such as using a central committee to collect data).
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers' classification will help people to work out how different techniques can be used to achieve, and keep, blinding in a trial. This will assist others to understand whether any particular trial was likely to have been blinded properly, and therefore work out whether the results are reliable. The researchers also suggest that, generally, blinding methods are not described in enough detail in published scientific papers, and recommend that guidelines for describing results of randomized trials be improved.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030425.
James Lind Library has been created to help patients and researchers understand fair tests of treatments in health care by illustrating how fair tests have developed over the centuries
ClinicalTrials.gov, a trial registry created by the US National Institutes of Health, has an introduction to understanding clinical trials
National Electronic Library for Health introduction to controlled clinical trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030425
PMCID: PMC1626553  PMID: 17076559
25.  Influence of Rapid Malaria Diagnostic Tests on Treatment and Health Outcome in Fever Patients, Zanzibar—A Crossover Validation Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000070.
Anders Bjorkman and colleagues report results from a cross-over trial evaluating rapid diagnostic testing for malaria diagnosis in Zanzibar.
Background
The use of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for Plasmodium falciparum malaria is being suggested to improve diagnostic efficiency in peripheral health care settings in Africa. Such improved diagnostics are critical to minimize overuse and thereby delay development of resistance to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). Our objective was to study the influence of RDT-aided malaria diagnosis on drug prescriptions, health outcomes, and costs in primary health care settings.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cross-over validation clinical trial in four primary health care units in Zanzibar. Patients of all ages with reported fever in the previous 48 hours were eligible and allocated alternate weeks to RDT-aided malaria diagnosis or symptom-based clinical diagnosis (CD) alone. Follow-up was 14 days. ACT was to be prescribed to patients diagnosed with malaria in both groups. Statistical analyses with multilevel modelling were performed. A total of 1,887 patients were enrolled February through August 2005. RDT was associated with lower prescription rates of antimalarial treatment than CD alone, 361/1005 (36%) compared with 752/882 (85%) (odds ratio [OR] 0.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.03–0.05, p<0.001). Prescriptions of antibiotics were higher after RDT than CD alone, i.e., 372/1005 (37%) and 235/882 (27%) (OR 1.8, 95%CI 1.5–2.2, p<0.001), respectively. Reattendance due to perceived unsuccessful clinical cure was lower after RDT 25/1005 (2.5%), than CD alone 43/882 (4.9%) (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3–0.9, p = 0.005). Total average cost per patient was similar: USD 2.47 and 2.37 after RDT and CD alone, respectively.
Conclusions
RDTs resulted in improved adequate treatment and health outcomes without increased cost per patient. RDTs may represent a tool for improved management of patients with fever in peripheral health care settings.
Trial Registration
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00549003
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly one million people (mainly children living in sub-Saharan Africa) die because of malaria, a subtropical and tropical parasitic disease. Although several parasites cause malaria, Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for most of these deaths. Indeed, infection with P. falciparum can be fatal within hours if left untreated. For the past 50 years, the main treatments for P. falciparum malaria have been chloroquine and sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Unfortunately, parasitic resistance to both of these “monotherapies” is now widespread and the illness and death caused by P. falciparum in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere has been increasing. To combat this increase, the World Health Organization now recommends artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) for P. falciparum malaria in all regions with drug-resistant malaria. In ACT, artemisinin derivatives (new, fast-acting antimalarial drugs) are used in combination with another antimalarial to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug.
Why Was This Study Done?
The chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to ACT should also be reduced by giving ACT only to people who definitely have malaria. Unfortunately, many people who do not have malaria are given ACT because symptom-based (clinical) diagnosis cannot always distinguish between patients whose fever is caused by malaria and those who have a different infection and who would, therefore, gain more benefit from other treatments. Microscopic detection of parasites in blood smears would greatly improve the accuracy of malaria diagnosis, but this test is rarely available in rural clinics in developing countries. Might the recently developed “rapid diagnostic tests” (RDTs) for P. falciparum provide an alternative way to improve malaria diagnosis and thus reduce the overuse of ACT? In this “cross-over trial,” the researchers investigate the effect of the routine use of an RDT for the diagnosis of malaria on ACT prescribing, health outcomes, and costs in four primary health-care clinics in Zanzibar (part of the United Republic of Tanzania), one of the first regions in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce ACT.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Each clinic used RDT-aided symptom-based clinical diagnosis of malaria (the RDT arm of the trial) and symptom-based clinical diagnosis (the CD arm) in alternate weeks to decide whether patients attending with fever had malaria. ACT was prescribed to everyone diagnosed with malaria; during RDT weeks only patients with positive RDT results were prescribed ACT. During the trial, 36% of the 1,005 patients in the RDT arm were prescribed ACT compared to 85% of the 882 patients in the CD arm. 37% and 27% of the RDT and CD arm patients, respectively, were prescribed antibiotics and fewer RDT-arm patients than CD-arm patients returned to the clinic because they still felt ill. The overall cost per patient was similar in both arms. The researchers also report that 23% of the antimalarial treatments given to patients in the RDT arm and 80% of those given to patients in the CD arm were given to people with no microscopically detectable parasites in their blood. Importantly, none of the 26 patients in the RDT group who had positive smears but who were not treated with antimalarial drugs because of a negative RDT result developed severe malaria.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the replacement of clinical diagnosis alone with RDT-aided diagnosis may reduce the number of people prescribed ACT who do not have malaria and may increase the number of patients given antibiotics for nonmalarial illnesses without increasing costs. However, while the health-care workers involved in this study only prescribed ACT to those patients in the RDT arm who had a positive RDT result (as stipulated in the trial protocol), evidence from other studies suggests that health-care workers often give antimalarials to patients with negative RDT results. Consequently, these findings may not be generalizable to other clinics. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that none of the patients who had malaria that was detected by blood smear but that was missed by RDT subsequently developed severe malaria. This finding, if replicated, might persuade health-care workers to trust RDT results rather than prescribing ACT to everyone with a fever “just in case.”
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000070.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Zeno Bisoffi and colleagues
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on rapid diagnostic tests for malaria. Their 2008 World Malaria Report includes information about global efforts to control malaria and the latest information on malaria in the United Republic of Tanzania
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on its approach to the global control of malaria and on artemisinin-based combination therapies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000070
PMCID: PMC2667629  PMID: 19399156

Results 1-25 (1304950)