GRACE principles: recognizing high-quality observational studies of comparative effectiveness

Am J Manag Care. 2010 Jun;16(6):467-71.


Nonrandomized comparative effectiveness studies contribute to clinical and biologic understanding of treatments by themselves, via subsequent confirmation in a more targeted randomized clinical trial, or through advances in basic science. Although methodological challenges and a lack of accepted principles to assess the quality of nonrandomized studies of comparative effectiveness have limited the practical use of these investigations, even imperfect studies can contribute useful information if they are thoughtfully designed, well conducted, carefully analyzed, and reported in a manner that addresses concerns from skeptical readers and reviewers. The GRACE (Good Research for Comparative Effectiveness) principles have been developed to help healthcare providers, researchers, journal readers, and editors evaluate the quality inherent in observational research studies of comparative effectiveness. The GRACE principles were developed by experienced academic and private sector researchers and were vetted over several years through presentation, critique, and consensus building among outcomes researchers, pharmacoepidemiologists, and other medical scientists and via formal review by the International Society of Pharmacoepidemiology. In contrast to other documents that guide systematic review and reporting, the GRACE principles are high-level concepts about good practice for nonrandomized comparative effectiveness research. The GRACE principles comprise a series of questions to guide evaluation. No scoring system is provided or encouraged, as interpretation of these observational studies requires weighing of all available evidence, tempered by judgment regarding the applicability of the studies to routine care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benchmarking
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research / organization & administration*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Observation
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Research Design / standards*