Reporting non-adherence in cluster randomised trials: A systematic review.

Agbla, SC; DiazOrdaz, K; (2018) Reporting non-adherence in cluster randomised trials: A systematic review. Clinical trials (London, England). p. 1740774518761666. ISSN 1740-7745 DOI:

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Treatment non-adherence in randomised trials refers to situations where some participants do not receive their allocated treatment as intended. For cluster randomised trials, where the unit of randomisation is a group of participants, non-adherence may occur at the cluster or individual level. When non-adherence occurs, randomisation no longer guarantees that the relationship between treatment receipt and outcome is unconfounded, and the power to detect the treatment effects in intention-to-treat analysis may be reduced. Thus, recording adherence and estimating the causal treatment effect adequately are of interest for clinical trials. To assess the extent of reporting of non-adherence issues in published cluster trials and to establish which methods are currently being used for addressing non-adherence, if any, and whether clustering is accounted for in these. We systematically reviewed 132 cluster trials published in English in 2011 previously identified through a search in PubMed. One-hundred and twenty three cluster trials were included in this systematic review. Non-adherence was reported in 56 cluster trials. Among these, 19 reported a treatment efficacy estimate: per protocol in 15 and as treated in 4. No study discussed the assumptions made by these methods, their plausibility or the sensitivity of the results to deviations from these assumptions. The year of publication of the cluster trials included in this review (2011) could be considered a limitation of this study; however, no new guidelines regarding the reporting and the handling of non-adherence for cluster trials have been published since. In addition, a single reviewer undertook the data extraction. To mitigate this, a second reviewer conducted a validation of the extraction process on 15 randomly selected reports. Agreement was satisfactory (93%). Despite the recommendations of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials statement extension to cluster randomised trials, treatment adherence is under-reported. Among the trials providing adherence information, there was substantial variation in how adherence was defined, handled and reported. Researchers should discuss the assumptions required for the results to be interpreted causally and whether these are scientifically plausible in their studies. Sensitivity analyses to study the robustness of the results to departures from these assumptions should be performed.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Medical Statistics
Research Centre: Centre for Statistical Methodology
PubMed ID: 29608096

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