Reporting and design of randomized controlled trials for COVID-19: A systematic review Academic Article uri icon

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  • BACKGROUND: The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has mobilized global research at an unprecedented scale. While challenges associated with the COVID-19 trial landscape have been discussed previously, no comprehensive reviews have been conducted to assess the reporting, design, and data sharing practices of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). PURPOSE: The purpose of this review was to gain insight into the current landscape of reporting, methodological design, and data sharing practices for COVID-19 RCTs. DATA SOURCES: We conducted three searches to identify registered clinical trials, peer-reviewed publications, and pre-print publications. STUDY SELECTION: After screening eight major trial registries and 7844 records, we identified 178 registered trials and 38 publications describing 35 trials, including 25 peer-reviewed publications and 13 pre-prints. DATA EXTRACTION: Trial ID, registry, location, population, intervention, control, study design, recruitment target, actual recruitment, outcomes, data sharing statement, and time of data sharing were extracted. DATA SYNTHESIS: Of 178 registered trials, 112 (62.92%) were in hospital settings, median planned recruitment was 100 participants (IQR: 60, 168), and the majority (n = 166, 93.26%) did not report results in their respective registries. Of 35 published trials, 31 (88.57%) were in hospital settings, median actual recruitment was 86 participants (IQR: 55.5, 218), 10 (28.57%) did not reach recruitment targets, and 27 trials (77.14%) reported plans to share data. CONCLUSIONS: The findings of our study highlight limitations in the design and reporting practices of COVID-19 RCTs and provide guidance towards more efficient reporting of trial results, greater diversity in patient settings, and more robust data sharing.


  • Dillman, Alison
  • Park, Jay JH
  • Zoratti, Michael J
  • Zannat, Noor-E
  • Lee, Zelyn
  • Dron, Louis
  • Hsu, Grace
  • Smith, Gerald
  • Khakabimamaghani, Sahand
  • Harari, Ofir
  • Thorlund, Kristian
  • Mills, Edward Joseph

publication date

  • February 2021