Background: Abstracts of clinical research often exaggerate the positive findings and emphasise the beneficial effects of intervention beyond the actual findings mentioned in the corresponding full texts. Boutron et al. suggested these overstatements had an impact on clinician’s interpretation. However, the characteristics of clinicians who are susceptible to overstatement are unknown.
Objective: To explore factors associated with primary care physicians’ interpretation of the rigor of overstated abstract conclusions
Method: This study was a secondary analysis of a randomised-controlled trial (RCT) that evaluated the influence of overstated abstract conclusions on primary care physician’s impression of the intervention (unpublished, trial registration: UMIN000025317). The original eligible criteria were volunteers among medical doctors of the Japan Primary Care Association; clinical experience of ≥2 years; currently in clinical practice; having chance to get information on new clinical research/trials. In the present study, we included the participants who were assigned abstracts with overstatement in the RCT. Our primary outcome was rating the overstated abstract conclusion as 'rigor'. We examined the association between clinicians’ factors and the primary outcome using multivariate logistic-regression model.
Result: Among the 286 included participants, 127 (44%) rated the abstract as 'rigor'. Increased postgraduate year (PGY) was associated with higher proportion of rigor rating on the overstated abstract (Adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.01-1.08). Inexperience of principal investigator for clinical research was also associated with increased risk of rigor rating (AOR 2.95, 95% CI 1.65-5.29). PhD and board certification were not associated with lower risk of rigor rating (AOR 1.25, 95%CI 0.69-2.28, and AOR 2.69 95%CI 0.99-7.27, respectively).
Conclusion: Longer PGY and inexperience of clinical research were found to increase the clinicians’ interpretation of the rigor of overstated abstract conclusions.