Background: The publication of protocols by medical journals is increasingly becoming an accepted means for promoting good quality research and maximising transparency. Recently, Finfer and Bellomo have suggested the publication of statistical analysis plans (SAPs).The aim of this paper is to make public and to report in detail the planned analyses that were approved by the Trial Steering Committee in May 2010 for the principal papers of the PACE (Pacing, graded Activity, and Cognitive behaviour therapy: a randomised Evaluation) trial, a treatment trial for chronic fatigue syndrome. It illustrates planned analyses of a complex intervention trial that allows for the impact of clustering by care providers, where multiple care-providers are present for each patient in some but not all arms of the trial.
Results: The trial design, objectives and data collection are reported. Considerations relating to blinding, samples, adherence to the protocol, stratification, centre and other clustering effects, missing data, multiplicity and compliance are described. Descriptive, interim and final analyses of the primary and secondary outcomes are then outlined.
Conclusions: This SAP maximises transparency, providing a record of all planned analyses, and it may be a resource for those who are developing SAPs, acting as an illustrative example for teaching and methodological research. It is not the sum of the statistical analysis sections of the principal papers, being completed well before individual papers were drafted.
Trial registration: ISRCTN54285094 assigned 22 May 2003; First participant was randomised on 18 March 2005.