Centre for International Health

Importance of Randomized Control Trials

Large-scale and long-term, RCTs can, in turn, generate further research projects and capacity-strengthening opportunities.

Medical staff in Uganda
Thorkild Tylleskär
2 groups
random Medical Research Library of Brooklyn SUNY

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New era in medical decision-making

PhD student, Bireshwar Sinha explains that medicine has entered an era of “evidence-based decision-making” where there is conscious and reasonable use of the current, best scientific evidence in decision-making for individual treatment and for population-wide health action. Well-conducted large randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provide data that can be used to inform policy and practice.


Gold-standard for estimating treatment effect

RCTs are considered to be the “gold-standard” method for estimating treatment effect. The random allocation of participants, when undertaken properly, minimizes as much as possible the potential for bias. A well-executed RCT can provide highly credible evidence about the efficacy of an intervention and the effectiveness of a health programme. Thus RCTs play a critical role in improving people’s health and welfare. This also holds true for vulnerable populations in low-income countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.


RCTs are costly

Few research groups have long-term core funding that enables them to undertake RCTs. However, the Research Council of Norway’s CoE funding scheme, enabled the establishment of the CoE, the Centre for Intervention Science in Maternal and Child Health (CISMAC), which is now undertaking several important RCTs. Learn more from the CISMAC website.


Generation of spin-offs

Well designed, large-scale intervention studies generate so much data that they also have tremendous potential for spin-off and add-on studies. In addition to expanding the relevance of the initial study, such studies provide important capacity-strengthening opportunities for young researchers. They provide them with excellent opportunities to design and lead their own research projects that will, in turn, build on the RCT results.