We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Article |

Large Trials vs Meta-analysis of Smaller Trials How Do Their Results Compare?

Joseph C. Cappelleri, PhD, MPH; John P. A. loannidis, MD; Christopher H. Schmid, PhD; Sarah D. de Ferranti, MD, MPH; Michael Aubert; Thomas C. Chalmers, MD; Joseph Lau, MD
JAMA. 1996;276(16):1332-1338. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540160054033.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


Objective.  —To evaluate the results of large clinical trials vs the pooled results of smaller trials.

Data Identification.  —Mata-analyses with at least 1 "large" study were identified from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Database and from MEDLINE (1966-1995).

Study Selection.  —We used a sample size approach to select 79 meta-analyses with at least 1 large study of 1000 or more patients. We used a statistical power approach to select 61 meta-analyses with at least 1 large study based on statistical power considerations.

Data Extraction.  —The outcome of interest for each meta-analysis was the primary one stated in the original publication or, when not clearly specified, was decided on clinically.

Data Synthesis.  —By random effects calculations, we found agreement between large and smaller trials in 90% of the meta-analyses selected by the sample size approach and in 82% of the meta-analyses selected by the statistical power approach. Twice as many disagreements appeared when the variability among large studies and among smaller studies was not considered (ie, fixed effects calculations). Of the 15 disagreements between results of large and smaller trials using the random effects model, plausible explanations were identified in 10 meta-analyses: 5 with differences in the control rate of events between large and smaller trials, 4 with specific protocol or study differences, and 1 with potential publication bias. Two other disagreements were not clinically important, and tentative reasons could be identified for 2 of the remaining 3 disagreements.

Conclusion.  —Results of smaller studies are usually compatible with the results of large studies, but discrepancies do occur even when the diversity among both large studies and smaller studies is considered. Clinically important differences without a potential explanation are extremely uncommon. Future research should further examine sources of heterogeneity between the results of large and smaller trials.


Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?




Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.