Against pragmatism: on efficacy, effectiveness and the real world

Trials. 2009 Jul 6;10:48. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-10-48.


Explanatory and pragmatic trials represent ends of a continuum of attitudes about clinical trial design. Recent literature argues that pragmatic trials are more informative about clinical care in the real world. Although there is place for more pragmatic studies to inform clinical practice and health policy decision-making, we are concerned that it is generally under-appreciated that extrapolating the results of broadly inclusive pragmatic trials to the care of real patients may often be as problematic as extrapolating the results of narrowly focused explanatory or efficacy trials. Simplistic interpretation of pragmatic trials runs the risk of driving harmful policies.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Decision Making
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans