Ethical and behavioral issues in data monitoring and interim analysis of trials

Grant AM, Altman DG, Babiker AB, Campbell MK, Clemens FJ, Darbyshire JH, Elbourne DR, McLeer SK, Parmar MKB, Pocock SJ, Spiegelhalter DJ, Sydes MR, Walker AE, Wallace SA
Record ID 32001000819
Authors' objectives:

To address issues about data monitoring committees (DMCs) for randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

Authors' recommendations: Some form of data monitoring should be considered for all RCTs, with reasons given where there is no DMC or when any member is not independent. An early DMC meeting is helpful, determining roles and responsibilities; planned operations can be agreed with investigators and sponsors/funders. A template for a DMC charter is suggested. Competing interests should be declared. DMC size (commonly three to eight people) is chosen to optimise performance. Members are usually independent and drawn from appropriate backgrounds, and some, particularly the chair, are experienced. A minimum frequency of meetings is usually agreed, with flexibility for more if needed. The DMC shouldunderstand and agree the statistical approach (and guidelines) chosen, with both the DMC statistician and analysis statistician competent to apply the method. A DMC’s primary purpose is to ensure that continuing a trial according to its protocol is ethical, taking account of both individual and collective ethics. A broader remit in respect of wider ethical issues is controversial; arguably, these are primarily the responsibility of research ethics committees, trial steering committees and investigators. The DMC should know the range of recommendations or decisions open to it, in advance. A record should be kept describing the key issues discussed and the rationale for decisions taken. Errors are likely to be reduced if a DMC makes a thorough review of the evidence and has a clear understanding of how it should function, there is active participation by all members, differences are resolved through discussion and there is systematic consideration of the various decision options. DMCs should be encouraged to comment on draft final trial reports. These shouldinclude information about the data monitoring process and detail the DMC membership. It is recommended that groups responsible for data monitoring be given the standard name ‘Data Monitoring Committee’ (DMC). Areas for further research include: widening DMC membership beyond clinicians, trialists and statisticians; initiatives to train DMC members;methods of DMC decision-making; ‘open’ data monitoring; DMCs covering a portfolio of trials rather than single trials; DMC size and membership, incorporating issues of group dynamics; empirical study of the workings of DMCs and their decisionmaking, and which trials should or should not have a DMC.
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2005
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Ethics, Clinical
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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Copyright: 2009 Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.