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Califf RM, Zarin DA, Kramer JM, Sherman RE, Aberle LH, Tasneem A. Characteristics of Clinical Trials Registered in ClinicalTrials.gov, 2007-2010. JAMA. 2012;307(17):1838–1847. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.3424
Author Affiliations: Duke Translational Medicine Institute, Durham, North Carolina (Drs Califf and Kramer); National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (Dr Zarin); Office of Medical Policy, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, US Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland (Dr Sherman); and Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham (Drs Kramer and Tasneem and Ms Aberle).
Context Recent reports highlight gaps between guidelines-based treatment recommendations and evidence from clinical trials that supports those recommendations. Strengthened reporting requirements for studies registered with ClinicalTrials.gov enable a comprehensive evaluation of the national trials portfolio.
Objective To examine fundamental characteristics of interventional clinical trials registered in the ClinicalTrials.gov database.
Methods A data set comprising 96 346 clinical studies from ClinicalTrials.gov was downloaded on September 27, 2010, and entered into a relational database to analyze aggregate data. Interventional trials were identified and analyses were focused on 3 clinical specialties—cardiovascular, mental health, and oncology—that together encompass the largest number of disability-adjusted life-years lost in the United States.
Main Outcome Measures Characteristics of registered clinical trials as reported data elements in the trial registry; how those characteristics have changed over time; differences in characteristics as a function of clinical specialty; and factors associated with use of randomization, blinding, and data monitoring committees (DMCs).
Results The number of registered interventional clinical trials increased from 28 881 (October 2004–September 2007) to 40 970 (October 2007–September 2010), and the number of missing data elements has generally declined. Most interventional trials registered between 2007 and 2010 were small, with 62% enrolling 100 or fewer participants. Many clinical trials were single-center (66%; 24 788/37 520) and funded by organizations other than industry or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (47%; 17 592/37 520). Heterogeneity in the reported methods by clinical specialty; sponsor type; and the reported use of DMCs, randomization, and blinding was evident. For example, reported use of DMCs was less common in industry-sponsored vs NIH-sponsored trials (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.11; 95% CI, 0.09-0.14), earlier-phase vs phase 3 trials (adjusted OR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.76-0.91), and mental health trials vs those in the other 2 specialties. In similar comparisons, randomization and blinding were less frequently reported in earlier-phase, oncology, and device trials.
Conclusion Clinical trials registered in ClinicalTrials.gov are dominated by small trials and contain significant heterogeneity in methodological approaches, including reported use of randomization, blinding, and DMCs.
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