OBJECTIVES: To assess the proportion of clinical trials explicitly reporting the risk of unblinding, to evaluate the completeness of reporting on unblinding risk, and to describe the reported procedures involved in assessing unblinding. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We sampled at random 300 blinded randomized clinical trials indexed in PubMed in 2010. Two authors read the trial publications and extracted data independently. RESULTS: Twenty-four trial publications, or 8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 5, 12%), explicitly reported the risk of unblinding, of which 16 publications, or 5% (95% CI, 3, 8%), reported compromised blinding; and 8 publications, or 3% (95% CI, 1, 5%), intact blinding. The reporting on risk of unblinding in the 24 trial publications was generally incomplete. The median proportion of assessments per trial affected by unblinding was 3% (range 1-30%). The most common mechanism for unblinding was perceptible physical properties of the treatments, for example, a difference in the taste and odor of a typhoid vaccine compared with its placebo. CONCLUSION: Published articles on randomized clinical trials infrequently reported risk of unblinding. This may reflect a tendency for avoiding reporting actual or suspected unblinding or a genuine low risk of unblinding.
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 2014, Vol 67, Issue 10, p. 1059-69