Objectives: To examine the reporting characteristics and methodological details of randomised trials indexed in PubMed in 2000 and 2006 and assess whether the quality of reporting has improved after publication of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement in 2001.
Design: Comparison of two cross sectional investigations. Study sample All primary reports of randomised trials indexed in PubMed in December 2000 (n=519) and December 2006 (n=616), including parallel group, crossover, cluster, factorial, and split body study designs.
Main outcome measures: The proportion of general and methodological items reported, stratified by year and study design. Risk ratios with 95% confidence intervals were calculated to represent changes in reporting between 2000 and 2006.
Results: The majority of trials were two arm (379/519 (73%) in 2000 v 468/616 (76%) in 2006) parallel group studies (383/519 (74%) v 477/616 (78%)) published in specialty journals (482/519 (93%) v 555/616 (90%)). In both 2000 and 2006, a median of 80 participants were recruited per trial for parallel group trials. The proportion of articles that reported drug trials decreased between 2000 and 2006 (from 393/519 (76%) to 356/616 (58%)), whereas the proportion of surgery trials increased (51/519 (10%) v 128/616 (21%)). There was an increase between 2000 and 2006 in the proportion of trial reports that included details of the primary outcome (risk ratio (RR) 1.18, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.33), sample size calculation (RR 1.66, 95% CI 1.40 to 1.95), and the methods of random sequence generation (RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.32 to 1.97) and allocation concealment (RR 1.40, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.76). There was no difference in the proportion of trials that provided specific details on who was blinded (RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.10).
Conclusions: Reporting of several important aspects of trial methods improved between 2000 and 2006; however, the quality of reporting remains well below an acceptable level. Without complete and transparent reporting of how a trial was designed and conducted, it is difficult for readers to assess its conduct and validity.