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Volume 6, Number 1, 2001

How often medical literature may be a source of incorrect clinical decision?

Bujko K, Nowacki MP, Michalski W.


Change in clinical practice results mainly from positive randomized trials (superiority of tested method confirmed by significant result of statistical test). However, the rate of false positive trials might be high among all positive trials - even 30%-50%. This percentage depends mainly on the rate of trials with a real difference in efficacy between tested methods; in lesser extend it depends on a level of type II error (a number of patients in a trial). The probable high rate of false positive trials among all positive trials indicates that a risk of undertaking of incorrect clinical decision based on literature may be also high. In addition, this risk is increased due to publication bias. Therefore, confirmatory trials are often necessary. The other issue, which might be a source of incorrect clinical decision, is lack of data enabling an assessment of generalizability of trial results: 1. a number of eligible but not enrolled patients and the reasons for treatment outside trial; 2. a comparison of a characteristic of patients on trial with a characteristic of eligible, but not enrolled patients; 3. a comparison of results of treatment of patients on trial with results of treatment of eligible, but not enrolled patients 4. data of referral pattern and information on the source population, from which patients were selected.

Signature: Rep Pract Oncol Radiother, 2001; 6(1) : 43-43

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