Child Versus Adult Research: The Gap in High-Quality Study Design

Division of General Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, 88 E Newton St, Vose 3, Boston, MA 02118, USA.
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 08/2008; 122(1):52-7. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2007-2849
Source: PubMed


The objective of this study was to determine whether there were differences in study design and purpose between published child- and adult-focused clinical research.
We reviewed all articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Annals of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Archives of Internal Medicine, and Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine during the first 3 months of 2005 and assessed each study's design and purpose. We compared articles focused on adults with those focused on children.
We included 370 original research reports in our analysis (New England Journal of Medicine, n = 46; Journal of the American Medical Association, n = 60; Annals of Internal Medicine, n = 27; Pediatrics, n = 130; Archives of Internal Medicine, n = 73; Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine, n = 34), of which 189 included only adults as subjects and 181 only children. Among adult studies, compared with child studies, there were more randomized, controlled trials (23.8% vs 8.8%) and systematic reviews (10.6% vs 1.7%) and fewer cross sectional studies (16.9% vs 40.9%). Study purposes also varied, with studies of therapies constituting 38.1% of adult studies, compared with 17.7% of child studies. In contrast, epidemiological studies, defined as studies describing the prevalence or incidence of diseases or risk factors or showing associations between risk factors and diseases, constituted 6.4% of adult studies, compared with 26.5% of child studies.
In 6 leading generalist and specialist journals, studies involving adults were significantly more likely than child studies to be randomized, controlled trials, systematic reviews, or studies of therapies. If such studies are to be viewed as the highest possible quality of evidence, then this difference has implications for quality of care for children and for funding and future directions in clinical research involving children.

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    • "This study showed that the number and the quality of Chinese pediatric RCTs improved slightly during the past decade. It had been reported that the number of adult RCTs was 2.7 times that of pediatric RCTs in six medical journals [9]. The number of pediatric RCTs increased from 0.4 to 16.9 per year, while adult RCTs increased from 4.71 to 90.5 per year [10-13]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Quality assessment of pediatric randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in China is limited. The aim of this study was to evaluate the quantitative trends and quality indicators of RCTs published in mainland China over a recent 10-year period. We individually searched all 17 available pediatric journals published in China from January 1, 2002 to December 30, 2011 to identify RCTs of drug treatment in participants under the age of 18 years. The quality was evaluated according to the Cochrane quality assessment protocol. Of 1287 journal issues containing 44398 articles, a total of 2.4% (1077/44398) articles were included in the analysis. The proportion of RCTs increased from 0.28% in 2002 to 0.32% in 2011. Individual sample sizes ranged from 10 to 905 participants (median 81 participants); 2.3% of the RCTs were multiple center trials; 63.9% evaluated Western medicine, 32.5% evaluated traditional Chinese medicine; 15% used an adequate method of random sequence generation; and 10.4% used a quasi-random method for randomization. Only 1% of the RCTs reported adequate allocation concealment and 0.6% reported the method of blinding. The follow-up period was from 7 days to 96 months, with a median of 7.5 months. There was incomplete outcome data reported in 8.3%, of which 4.5% (4/89) used intention-to-treat analysis. Only 0.4% of the included trials used adequate random sequence allocation, concealment and blinding. The articles published from 2007 to 2011 revealed an improvement in the randomization method compared with articles published from 2002 to 2006 (from 2.7% to 23.6%, p=0.000). In mainland China, the quantity of RCTs did not increase in the pediatric population, and the general quality was relatively poor. Quality improvements were suboptimal in the later 5 years.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · BMC Pediatrics
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    • "Recent work has demonstrated that published studies involving adults are much more likely than those involving children to be RCTs or systematic reviews, and that studies of therapies constitute a lower percentage of overall published trials in children than in adults[20]. Our work amplifies this concern by showing that, even when a high-quality study design is used in pediatric research, the conduct and reporting of the trial is often inadequate. "
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to describe randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) in child health published between 1948 and 2006, in terms of quantity, methodological quality, and publication and trial characteristics. We used the Trials Register of the Cochrane Child Health Field for overall trends and a sample from this to explore trial characteristics in more detail. We extracted descriptive data on a random sample of 578 trials. Ninety-six percent of the trials were published in English; the percentage of child-only trials was 90.5%. The most frequent diagnostic categories were infectious diseases (13.2%), behavioural and psychiatric disorders (11.6%), neonatal critical care (11.4%), respiratory disorders (8.9%), non-critical neonatology (7.9%), and anaesthesia (6.5%). There were significantly fewer child-only studies (i.e., more mixed child and adult studies) over time (P = 0.0460). The proportion of RCTs to CCTs increased significantly over time (P<0.0001), as did the proportion of multicentre trials (P = 0.002). Significant increases over time were found in methodological quality (Jadad score) (P<0.0001), the proportion of double-blind studies (P<0.0001), and studies with adequate allocation concealment (P<0.0001). Additionally, we found an improvement in reporting over time: adequate description of withdrawals and losses to follow-up (P<0.0001), sample size calculations (P<0.0001), and intention-to-treat analysis (P<0.0001). However, many trials still do not describe their level of blinding, and allocation concealment was inadequately reported in the majority of studies across the entire time period. The proportion of studies with industry funding decreased slightly over time (P = 0.003), and these studies were more likely to report positive conclusions (P = 0.028). The quantity and quality of pediatric controlled trials has increased over time; however, much work remains to be done, particularly in improving methodological issues around conduct and reporting of trials.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Terry Klassen and colleagues discuss a new study examining whether children and adults with drug-resistant partial epilepsy respond differently to antiepileptic drugs.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2008 · PLoS Medicine
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