Objective To assess the reporting quality of noninferiority and equivalence randomized controlled trials (RCTs) related to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Methods The noninferiority and equivalence RCTs related to TCM were searched, and the quality of the included RCTs was identified in accordance with the extended version of CONSORT statement which refers to the reporting standard of noninferiority and equivalence RCTs. Results A total of 13 noninferiority and equivalence RCTs were included. Except for the common questions of RCTs in reporting quality, some contents related to noninferiority and equivalence trials in reporting were not enough: a) The title of RCTs did not reflect the most important content of the literature; b) The introduction of background was quite simple. The rationale about noninferiority and equivalence trials, and the effectiveness of positive control were not clearly defined; c) All literatures did not indicate whether the subjects, interventions and outcomes in the noninferiority and equivalence trials were identical or similar to those in previous trials of defining the effectiveness of control treatment; d) Most literatures did not define the critical value of noninferiority and equivalence, and did not estimate the sample size; e) Only half of literature described the statistical methods of noninferiority test and equivalence test; and f) Some literature had mistakes in noninferiority and equivalence conclusion. Conclusion The researchers still need deeper understanding of the theoretical basis of noninferiority and equivalence trials. The reference to the extended version of CONSORT statement, which refers to the reporting standard of noninferiority and equivalence RCTs, is helpful for researchers to identify the key points of the design, performance and reporting of the noninferiority and equivalence RCTs, to lay stress on the related contents of noninferiority and equivalence trial reporting, and to radically improve the reporting quality of such clinical trials.
Although the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) is regarded as a golden standard, it often fails to be applied in clinical practice for lack of generalizability. Evidence from either RCTs or non-RCTs is mutually complementary and referred. Different designs are suitable for different stages and can resolve different issues. During evaluation of an intervention, the proper research design should be selected in accordance with the objective, feasibility, and merits and limitations of different design modes.