The n-of-1 clinical trial: the ultimate strategy for individualizing medicine?

Per Med. 2011 Mar;8(2):161-173. doi: 10.2217/pme.11.7.


N-of-1 or single subject clinical trials consider an individual patient as the sole unit of observation in a study investigating the efficacy or side-effect profiles of different interventions. The ultimate goal of an n-of-1 trial is to determine the optimal or best intervention for an individual patient using objective data-driven criteria. Such trials can leverage study design and statistical techniques associated with standard population-based clinical trials, including randomization, washout and crossover periods, as well as placebo controls. Despite their obvious appeal and wide use in educational settings, n-of-1 trials have been used sparingly in medical and general clinical settings. We briefly review the history, motivation and design of n-of-1 trials and emphasize the great utility of modern wireless medical monitoring devices in their execution. We ultimately argue that n-of-1 trials demand serious attention among the health research and clinical care communities given the contemporary focus on individualized medicine.