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Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2009 May;4(2):79-88.

A general framework for the evaluation of clinical trial quality.

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National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, 6130 Executive Boulevard, MSC-7354, Bethesda, MD 20892-7354 USA.


Flawed evaluation of clinical trial quality allows flawed trials to thrive (get funded, obtain IRB approval, get published, serve as the basis of regulatory approval, and set policy). A reasonable evaluation of clinical trial quality must recognize that any one of a large number of potential biases could by itself completely invalidate the trial results. In addition, clever new ways to distort trial results toward a favored outcome may be devised at any time. Finally, the vested financial and other interests of those conducting the experiments and publishing the reports must cast suspicion on any inadequately reported aspect of clinical trial quality. Putting these ideas together, we see that an adequate evaluation of clinical quality would need to enumerate all known biases, update this list periodically, score the trial with regard to each potential bias on a scale of 0% to 100%, offer partial credit for only that which can be substantiated, and then multiply (not add) the component scores to obtain an overall score between 0% and 100%. We will demonstrate that current evaluations fall well short of these ideals.

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