Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Odds in clinical trials shown to be beneficial for patients

TAMPA — Signing up for a clinical trial is a difficult decision. Many patients fear they will be assigned to receive an older treatment — and not get a shot at the newer, hopefully better drug in final testing stages.

Now an international group of experts can put those fears to rest. Your chances of getting the superior treatment are about 50-50, researchers found, regardless of which drug you receive.

Dr. Benjamin Djulbegovic, an oncologist at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center, led the team of researchers that reviewed 743 clinical trials involving 297,744 patients. Their report was published this week by the highly regarded Cochrane Collaboration.

"From the patient point of view, this is good news," Djulbegovic said. "On average, if you are being enrolled in clinical trials, there is a 50 percent chance that you are going to get superior treatment. That superior treatment could very well be the new treatment, or the existing treatment — but that will not be known in advance."

The findings are significant from a scientific standpoint. If newer was always better, Djulbegovic noted, it would be unethical to conduct randomized trials for drugs in final testing stages in which patients are assigned to groups receiving either new or existing therapies. Both sets of outcomes are compared.

"Why would you do a trial if you knew the answer?" he asked. "And ethically, you would be knowingly exposing patients to inferior treatment because you believe you know the answer."

Djulbegovic, USF's associate dean for clinical research, became interested in the topic a decade ago when enrolling a local patient in a clinical trial. The man asked how often the patients receiving the experimental drugs were better off.

"I was taken aback. I didn't know," Djulbegovic said.

To find an answer, Djulbegovic and his team reviewed clinical trials involving new therapies for cancers, neurological disorders and other diseases. They reviewed only publicly funded studies, for which both positive and negative outcomes were available.

Such perspective was necessary because medical journals can be biased in favor of positive results, Djulbegovic said. And pharmaceutical companies don't always release the results of their clinical trials if the new drug wasn't found to be better.

Now doctors and patients can know exactly what they are getting into when enrolling in randomized clinical trials.

"Society can expect that slightly more than half of new experimental treatments will prove to be better," the reviewers concluded. "But few will be substantially better."

Letitia Stein can be reached at or (727) 893-8330.

Odds in clinical trials shown to be beneficial for patients 10/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour


    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Democrat Philip Levine won't attack Trump. Can he be Florida governor?


    If he decides to run, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will be the most enigmatic and unpredictable candidate for Florida governor in 2018.

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is introduced before speaking at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting at the Ferguson Law Center in Tampa on May 19. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  3. What you need to know for Friday, Aug. 18


    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read 'Hellfire from Above,' inside the Tampa Electric Co. power plant accident that left five people dead. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Tampa is training ground for Team USA inline skating

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The United States once dominated the sport known as international outdoor inline speed skating.

    Cotton Yarborough is one of five people from the Tampa Bay area on the national inline speed skating team. The team is competing in the world championships Aug. 27 in China. [Courtesy of Frank Holland]
  5. Grocery and hotel deals in reach for Tampa Encore project

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — After failing to land both Publix and Walmart, the Tampa Housing Authority says it is close to a deal to bring another well-known grocer to its Encore project.

    The Tampa Housing Authority's Encore project has housing like The Reed, pictured, but no retail. It is in talks to bring a grocer and two hotels to the site on the west side of Nebraska Avenue close to downtown Tampa.