The use of unequal randomisation in clinical trials - an update

Emily Peckham, Sally Brabyn, Liz Cook, Thomas Devlin, Jo Dumville, David Torgerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To update a 2005 review of the reasons researchers have given for the use of unequal randomisation in randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

MAIN MEASURES: Intervention being tested; type of study; number of participants; randomisation ratio; sample size calculation and reason given for using unequal randomisation.

METHODS: Review of trials using unequal randomisation.

DATABASES AND SOURCES: Cochrane library, Medline and CINAHL.

RESULTS: A total of 86 trials were identified. Of these 82 trials (95%) recruited patients in favour of the experimental group. Various reasons for the use of unequal randomisation were given including: gaining treatment experience; identification of adverse events; ethical; logistic and enhancing recruitment. No trial reported explicitly used it for cost-effectiveness. Most of the papers (i.e. 47, 55%) did not state why they had used unequal randomisation and only 38 trials (44%) appeared to have taken the unequal randomisation into account in their sample size calculation.

CONCLUSION: Most studies did not mention the rationale for unequal allocation, and a significant proportion did not appear to account for it in the sample size calculations. Unlike the previous review economic considerations were not stated as a rationale for its use. A number of trials used it to enhance recruitment, although this has not been tested.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
Issue numberPart A
Early online date28 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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