Reducing bias in open-label trials where blinded outcome assessment is not feasible: Strategies from two randomised trials
Kahan BC., Cro S., Doré CJ., Bratton DJ., Rehal S., Maskell NA., Rahman N., Jairath V.
© 2014 Kahan et al. Background: Blinded outcome assessment is recommended in open-label trials to reduce bias, however it is not always feasible. It is therefore important to find other means of reducing bias in these scenarios. Methods: We describe two randomised trials where blinded outcome assessment was not possible, and discuss the strategies used to reduce the possibility of bias. Results: TRIGGER was an open-label cluster randomised trial whose primary outcome was further bleeding. Because of the cluster randomisation, all researchers in a hospital were aware of treatment allocation and so could not perform a blinded assessment. A blinded adjudication committee was also not feasible as it was impossible to compile relevant information to send to the committee in a blinded manner. Therefore, the definition of further bleeding was modified to exclude subjective aspects (such as whether symptoms like vomiting blood were severe enough to indicate the outcome had been met), leaving only objective aspects (the presence versus absence of active bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract confirmed by an internal examination). Conclusions: When blinded outcome assessment is not possible, it may be useful to modify the outcome definition or method of assessment to reduce the risk of bias. Trial registration: TRIGGER: ISRCTN85757829. Registered 26 July 2012.