Funding source and the quality of reports of chronic wounds trials: 2004 to 2011

Robert Hodgson, Richard Allen, Ellen Broderick, J. Martin Bland, Jo C. Dumville*, Rebecca Ashby, Sally Bell-Syer, Ruth Foxlee, Jill Hall, Karen Lamb, Mary Madden, Susan O'Meara, Nikki Stubbs, Nicky Cullum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Critical commentaries suggest that wound care randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are often poorly reported with many methodological flaws. Furthermore, interventions in chronic wounds, rather than being drugs, are often medical devices for which there are no requirements for RCTs to bring products to market. RCTs in wounds trials therefore potentially represent a form of marketing. This study presents a methodological overview of chronic wound trials published between 2004 and 2011 and investigates the influence of industry funding on methodological quality.

Methods: A systematic search for RCTs for the treatment of chronic wounds published in the English language between 2004 and 2011 (inclusive) in the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register of Trials was carried out. Data were extracted on aspects of trial design, conduct and quality including sample size, duration of follow-up, specification of a primary outcome, use of surrogate outcomes, and risks of bias. In addition, the prevalence of industry funding was assessed and its influence on the above aspects of trial design, conduct and quality was assessed.

Results: A total of 167 RCTs met our inclusion criteria. We found chronic wound trials often have short durations of follow-up (median 12 weeks), small sample sizes (median 63), fail to define a primary outcome in 41% of cases, and those that do define a primary outcome, use surrogate measures of healing in 40% of cases. Only 40% of trials used appropriate methods of randomisation, 25% concealed allocation and 34% blinded outcome assessors. Of the included trials, 41% were wholly or partially funded by industry, 33% declared non-commercial funding and 26% did not report a funding source. Industry funding was not statistically significantly associated with any measure of methodological quality, though this analysis was probably underpowered.

Conclusions: This overview confirms concerns raised about the methodological quality of RCTs in wound care and illustrates that greater efforts must be made to follow international standards for conducting and reporting RCTs. There is currently minimal evidence of an influence of industry funding on methodological quality although analyses had limited power and funding source was not reported for a quarter of studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Number of pages10
JournalTrials
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Wound care
  • Randomised controlled trials
  • Bias
  • Industry funding
  • RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED-TRIALS
  • VENOUS LEG ULCERS
  • CONTROLLED DRUG TRIALS
  • SURROGATE END-POINTS
  • CLINICAL-TRIALS
  • INDUSTRY SPONSORSHIP
  • SYSTEMATIC REVIEWS
  • BIAS
  • INTERVENTIONS
  • PUBLICATION

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