The quality of randomized controlled trials in high-impact rheumatology journals, 1998-2018

Michael S. Putman*, Ashley Harrison Ragle, Eric M. Ruderman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective. Well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCT) mitigate bias and confounding, but previous evaluations of rheumatology trials found high rates of methodological flaws. Outside of rheumatoid arthritis, no studies in the modern era have assessed the quality of rheumatology RCT over time or regarding industry funding. Methods. We identified all RCT published in 3 high-impact rheumatology journals from 1998, 2008, and 2018. Quality metrics derived from a modified Jadad scale were analyzed by year of publication and by funding source. Results. Ninety-six publications met inclusion criteria; 82 of these described the primary analysis of an RCT. Over time (1998-2008-2018), trials were less likely to adequately report dropouts and withdrawals (100% vs 82% vs 60%; p < 0.01) or include an active comparator (44% vs 12% vs 13%; p = 0.01). Later trials were more likely to evaluate biologic therapy (11% vs 38% vs 83%; p < 0.01) and report adequate randomization procedures (39% vs 29% vs 60%; p = 0.04). Seventy-nine percent of trials received industry funding. Industry-funded trials were more likely to report double-blinding (86% vs 53%; p < 0.01), patient-reported outcome measures (77% vs 41%; p < 0.01), and intention-to-treat analyses (86% vs 65%; p = 0.04). Conclusion. Industry-funded trials comprise the majority of RCT published in high-impact rheumatology journals and more frequently report metrics associated with RCT quality. RCT assessing active comparators and nonbiologic therapies have become less common in high-impact rheumatology journals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1446-1449
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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