Context Studies have shown that reports from clinical trials with statistically
significant results tend to be submitted and published more rapidly than reports
from studies with null or nonsignficant findings.
Methods We wanted to determine whether manuscripts reporting positive results
from controlled clinical trials are published more quickly than those reporting
negative results. We tracked manuscripts from submission to JAMA until the
publication decision. We classified results as positive if a statistically significant difference was reported for the primary
outcome. Manuscripts were further classified according to indicators of methodologic
quality and other study characteristics. We included manuscripts if they were
submitted from February 1996 through August 1999, reported results of a prospective
study in which participants were assigned to a treatment or comparison group,
used statistical tests to compare differences between groups, and were accepted
Results One hundred thirty-three manuscripts met our inclusion criteria, 78
(59%) reported positive results, 51 (38%) reported negative results. We were
unable to classify the direction of results for 4 articles (3%). The time
interval between submission and publication was not associated with positive
results: median time between submission and publication was 7.8 months for
reports with positive vs 7.6 months for reports with negative results (P = .44). Time to publication also was not associated with
any marker of study quality or study characteristic.
Conclusions Among 133 published controlled trials, time to publication was not associated
with statistical significance, methodologic quality, or other study characteristics.