INTRODUCTION: When participants drop out of randomised clinical trials, as frequently happens, the intention-to-treat (ITT) principle does not apply, potentially leading to attrition bias. Data lost from patient dropout/lack of follow-up are statistically addressed by imputing, a procedure prone to bias. Deviations from the original definition of ITT are referred to as modified intention-to-treat (mITT). As yet, the impact of the potential bias associated with mITT has not been assessed. Our objective is to investigate potential bias and disadvantages of performing mITT and evaluate possible concerns when executing different mITT approaches in meta-analyses.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Using meta-epidemiology on randomised trials considered less prone to bias (ie, good internal validity) and assessing biological or targeted agents in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, we will meta-analyse data from 10 biological and targeted drugs based on collections of trials that would correspond to 10 individual meta-analyses.
ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study will enhance transparency for evaluating mITT treatment effects described in meta-analyses. The intended audience will include healthcare researchers, policymakers and clinicians. Results of the study will be disseminated by peer-review publication.
PROTOCOL REGISTRATION: In PROSPERO CRD42013006702, 11. December 2013.