Reliability of Trial Information Across Registries for Trials With Multiple Registrations
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IMPORTANCE: Clinical trial registries are important for gaining an overview of ongoing research efforts and for deterring and identifying publication bias and selective outcome reporting. The reliability of the information in trial registries is uncertain. OBJECTIVE: To assess the reliability of information across registries for trials with multiple registrations. EVIDENCE REVIEW: For this systematic review, 360 protocols of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) approved by research ethics committees in Switzerland, the UK, Canada, and Germany in 2012 were evaluated. Clinical trial registries were searched from March to September 2019 for corresponding registrations of these RCTs. For RCTS that were recorded in more than 1 clinical trial registry, key trial characteristics that should be identical among all trial registries (ie, sponsor, funding source, primary outcome, target sample size, trial status, date of first patient enrollment, results available, and main publication indexed) were extracted in duplicate. Agreement between the different trial registries for these key characteristics was analyzed descriptively. Data analyses were conducted from May 1 to November 30, 2020. Representatives from clinical trial registries were interviewed to discuss the study findings between February 1 and March 31, 2021. FINDINGS: The analysis included 197 RCTs registered in more than 1 trial registry (151 in 2 registries and 46 in 3 registries), with 188 trials in ClinicalTrials.gov, 185 in the European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials Database (EudraCT), 20 in ISRCTN, and 47 in other registries. The agreement of key information across all registries was as follows: 178 of 197 RCTs (90%; 95% CI, 85%-94%) for sponsor, 18 of 20 (90%; 95% CI, 68%-99%) for funding source (funding was not reported on ClinicalTrials.gov), 154 of 197 (78%; 95% CI, 72%-84%) for primary outcome, 90 of 197 (46%; 95% CI, 39%-53%) for trial status, 122 of 194 (63%; 95% CI, 56%-70%) for target sample size, and 43 of 57 (75%; 95% CI, 62%-86%) for the date of first patient enrollment when the comparison time was increased to 30 days (date of first patient enrollment was not reported on EudraCT). For results availability in trial registries, agreement was 122 of 197 RCTs (62%; 95% CI, 55%-69%) for summary data reported in the registry and 91 of 197 (46%; 95% CI, 39%-53%) for whether a published article with the main results was indexed. Different legal requirements were stated as the main reason for inconsistencies by representatives of clinical trial registries. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In this systematic review, for a substantial proportion of registered RCTs, information about key trial characteristics was inconsistent across trial registries, raising concerns about the reliability of the information provided in these registries. Further harmonization across clinical trial registries may be necessary to increase their usefulness.
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