Professional medical writing support and the reporting quality of randomized controlled trial abstracts among high-impact general medical journals

F1000Res. 2017 Aug 16:6:1489. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.12268.2. eCollection 2017.


Background: In articles reporting randomized controlled trials, professional medical writing support is associated with increased adherence to Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT). We set out to determine whether professional medical writing support was also associated with improved adherence to CONSORT for Abstracts. Methods: Using data from a previously published cross-sectional study of 463 articles reporting randomized controlled trials published between 2011 and 2014 in five top medical journals, we determined the association between professional medical writing support and CONSORT for Abstracts items using a Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Results: The mean proportion of adherence to CONSORT for Abstracts items reported was similar with and without professional medical writing support (64.3% vs 66.5%, respectively; p=0.30). Professional medical writing support was associated with lower adherence to reporting study setting (relative risk [RR]; 0.40; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23-0.70), and higher adherence to disclosing harms/side effects (RR 2.04; 95% CI, 1.37-3.03) and funding source (RR 1.75; 95% CI, 1.18-2.60). Conclusions: Although professional medical writing support was not associated with increased overall adherence to CONSORT for Abstracts, important aspects were improved with professional medical writing support, including reporting of adverse events and funding source. This study identifies areas to consider for improvement.

Keywords: CONSORT guidelines; abstracts; adherence; adverse events; funding source; medical writing; randomized controlled trials.

Grants and funding

The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.