We illustrate the approach of randomising treatments and compare it with the traditional approach of randomising patients, using a case study drawn from the authors' experience in clinical trials. The setting is a double-blind parallel two-arm randomised controlled trial (RCT), but the method in this paper can be extended to single-blind, cross-over, or multi-arm RCTs. We propose the concept of two different levels of blinding: full blinding and partial blinding. We subsequently show how to maintain the maximal level of blinding. Using an example, we show that a pharmacist can be fully blinded if the investigational medical products (IMPs) that they prescribe (instead of patients) are randomised, and they can be partially blinded if they need to dispense replacement (i.e., surplus) IMPs. A small number of surplus IMPs is commonly required in a clinical trial to replace lost or damaged IMPs. We note that the concept of full blinding and partial blinding is different from double-blind trial, and the level of blinding is relevant in both single-blind and double-blind trials. A trial statistician needs to work closely with all parties in the design of the randomisation, including the pharmacist, the trial manager, and the manufacturer. We detail what should and should not be shown in the various documents that the trial statistician need to provide to the pharmacist and to the manufacturer. We provide template tables for these documents.
Contemporary clinical trials communications
Nuffield Department of Population Health (NDPH), University of Oxford, UK.