Randomization is firmly established as a cornerstone of clinical trial methodology. Yet, the ethics of randomization continues to generate controversy. The default, and most efficient, allocation scheme randomizes patients equally (1:1) across all arms of study. However, many randomized trials are using outcome-adaptive allocation schemes, which dynamically adjust the allocation ratio in favor of the better performing treatment arm. Advocates of outcome-adaptive allocation contend that it better accommodates clinical equipoise and promotes informed consent, since such trials limit patient-subject exposure to sub-optimal care. In this essay, we argue that this purported ethical advantage of outcome-adaptive allocation does not stand up to careful scrutiny in the setting of two-armed studies and/or early-phase research.
Keywords: Adaptive randomization; equipoise; ethics; therapeutic misconception.
© The Author(s) 2015.