Methods for combining randomized clinical trials: strengths and limitations

Stat Med. 1987 Apr-May;6(3):341-50. doi: 10.1002/sim.4780060325.


Methods for combining data from several studies exist and appear to be quite useful. None satisfactorily addresses the question of what studies should be combined. This issue is the most serious methodological limitation. Even studies with statistically significant interaction might still be combined if the effect were in the same direction. Thus, substantial scientific input is required as to what criteria must be met by each potential study. Much can be learned from combining or pooling data but it must be done cautiously. Pooling exercises do not replace well designed prospective clinical trials. Efforts for establishing basic design criteria to allow for multicentre and multicountry trials to be more easily combined might be useful.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation
  • Statistics as Topic / standards