Background: Trial steering committees (TSCs) steer the conduct of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We examined the gender composition of TSCs in impactful heart failure RCTs and explored whether trial leadership by a woman was independently associated with the inclusion of women in TSCs.
Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and CINAHL for heart failure RCTs published in journals with impact factor ≥10 between January 2000 and May 2019. We used the Jonckheere-Terpstra test to assess temporal trends and multivariable logistic regression to explore trial characteristics associated with TSC inclusion of women.
Results: Of 403 RCTs that met inclusion criteria, 127 (31.5%) reported having a TSC but 20 of these (15.7%) did not identify members. Among 107 TSCs that listed members, 56 (52.3%) included women and 6 of these (10.7%) restricted women members to the RCT leaders. Of 1213 TSC members, 11.1% (95% CI, 9.4%-13.0%) were women, with no change in temporal trends (P=0.55). Women had greater odds of TSC inclusion in RCTs led by women (adjusted odds ratio, 2.48 [95% CI, 1.05-8.72], P=0.042); this association was nonsignificant when analysis excluded TSCs that restricted women to the RCT leaders (adjusted odds ratio 1.46 [95% CI, 0.43-4.91], P=0.36).
Conclusions: Women were included in 52.3% of TSCs and represented 11.1% of TSC members in 107 heart failure RCTs, with no change in trends since 2000. RCTs led by women had higher adjusted odds of including women in TSCs, partly due to the self-inclusion of RCT leaders in TSCs.
Keywords: heart failure; leadership; randomized controlled trials; women.