Association between trial registration and positive study findings: Cross sectional study (Epidemiological Study of Randomized Trials - ESORT)

Ayodele Odutayo, Connor A. Emdin, Allan J. Hsiao, Mubeen Shakir, Bethan Copsey, Susan Dutton, Virginia Chiocchia, Michael Schlussel, Peter Dutton, Corran Roberts, Douglas G. Altman, Sally Hopewell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective To assess whether randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that were registered were less likely to report positive study findings compared with RCTs that were not registered and whether the association varied by funding source. Design Cross sectional study. Study sample All primary RCTs published in December 2012 and indexed in PubMed by November 2013. Trial registration was determined based on the report of a trial registration number in published RCTs or the identification of the trial in a search of trial registries. Trials were separated into prospectively and retrospectively registered studies. Main outco me measure Association between trial registration and positive study findings. Results 1122 eligible RCTs were identified, of which 593 (52.9%) were registered and 529 (47.1%) were not registered. Overall, registration was marginally associated with positive study findings (adjusted risk ratio 0.87, 95% confidence interval 0.78 to 0.98), even with stratification as prospectively and retrospectively registered trials (0.87, 0.74 to 1.03 and 0.88, 0.78 to 1.00, respectively). The interaction term between overall registration and funding source was marginally statistically significant and relative risk estimates were imprecise (0.75, 0.63 to 0.89 for non-industry funded and 1.03, 0.79 to 1.36 for industry funded, P interaction=0.046). Furthermore, a statistically significant interaction was not maintained in sensitivity analyses. Within each stratum of funding source, relative risk estimates were also imprecise for the association between positive study findings and prospective and retrospective registration. Conclusion Among published RCTs, there was little evidence of a difference in positive study findings between registered and non-registered clinical trials, even with stratification by timing of registration. Relative risk estimates were imprecise in subgroups of non-industry and industry funded trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberj917
JournalBMJ (Online)
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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