A literature review on the representativeness of randomized controlled trial samples and implications for the external validity of trial results

Trials, 3 Novmber 2015

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are conducted under idealized and rigorously controlled conditions that may compromise their external validity. A literature review was conducted of published English language articles that reported the findings of studies assessing external validity by a comparison of the patient sample included in RCTs reporting on pharmaceutical interventions with patients from everyday clinical practice. The review focused on publications in the fields of cardiology, mental health, and oncology. … Findings from this review indicate that there is a need to improve the external validity of RCTs such that physicians treating patients in real-world settings have the appropriate evidence on which to base their clinical decisions. This goal could be achieved by trial design modification to include a more representative patient sample and by supplementing RCT evidence with data generated from observational studies. In general, a thoughtful approach to clinical evidence generation is required in which the trade-offs between internal and external validity are considered in a holistic and balanced manner. Read more.