Identifying outcome reporting bias

This post courtesy of Anne Taylor-Vaisey: Here is the link for the April 9 issue of BMJ.

Here is an article from last week that I meant to post:

Chan AW, Altman DG. Identifying outcome reporting bias in randomised trials on PubMed: review of publications and survey of authors. BMJ 2005; 330(7494):753.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the extent and nature of outcome reporting bias in a broad cohort of published randomised trials.

DESIGN: Retrospective review of publications and follow up survey of authors.

COHORT: All journal articles of randomised trials indexed in PubMed whose primary publication appeared in December 2000.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prevalence of incompletely reported outcomes per trial; reasons for not reporting outcomes; association between completeness of reporting and statistical significance.

RESULTS: 519 trials with 553 publication! s and 10,557 outcomes were identified. Survey responders (response rate 69%) provided information on unreported outcomes but were often unreliable--for 32% of those who denied the existence of such outcomes there was evidence to the contrary in their publications. On average, over 20% of the outcomes measured in a parallel group trial were incompletely reported. Within a trial, such outcomes had a higher odds of being statistically non-significant compared with fully reported outcomes (odds ratio 2.0 (95% confidence interval 1.6 to 2.7) for efficacy outcomes; 1.9 (1.1 to 3.5) for harm outcomes). The most commonly reported reasons for omitting efficacy outcomes included space constraints, lack of clinical importance, and lack of statistical significance.

CONCLUSIONS: Incomplete reporting of outcomes within published articles of randomised trials is common and is associated with statistical non-significance. The medical literature therefore represents a selective and biased subset of study outcomes, and trial protocols should be made publicly available.

PubMed link

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