Unblinded and Blinded N-of-1 Trials Versus Usual Care: A Randomized Controlled Trial to Increase Statin Uptake in Primary Care.
Tudor K., Brooks J., Howick J., Fox R., Aveyard P.
BACKGROUND: The aim was to assess whether an intervention incorporating a practicable open-label n-of-1 trial would lead to greater uptake of statin than usual care and comparable uptake to a closed-label gold-standard n-of-1 trial. METHODS: We enrolled patients who had stopped or declined statins into a 3-arm trial (usual care, unblinded, and blinded n-of-1 intervention arms). Physicians advised participants randomized to usual care to take statin therapy to prevent cardiovascular disease. In both intervention arms, physicians delivered a theoretically informed informed intervention endorsing the value of experimenting with medication in n-of-1 trials to assess whether it caused side-effects. In these trials, participants alternated between 4 weeks of medication and no medication (unblinded arm) or randomly sorted active and placebo (blinded arm) and recorded symptoms and symptom attributions for 6 months. Thereafter, physicians discussed participants' symptom reports during active/inactive treatment periods and asked participants to resume statins if appropriate. RESULTS: Seventy-three were randomized to the intervention arms and 20 to the control group. Fifty-six of 73 (77%) attempted the n-of-1 experiment; 28/36 (78%) in the unblinded arm; and 28/37 (76%) in the blinded arm. Forty-three of 56 (77%) completed the 6-month experiment and received feedback from the physician; 20/28 (71%) in the unblinded arm and 23/28 (82%) in the blinded arm. Thirty-three of 76 (45%) people restarted statins in the n-of-1 arms compared with 4/20 (20%) in the control arm, difference 24% (95% CI, 5%-43%; P=0.041). There was no evidence this differed between blinded and unblinded arms, difference 2% (95% CI, -20% to 24%; P=0.86). Adverse events occurred at a similar rate on and off statin. CONCLUSIONS: In patients refusing or intolerant of statin, supporting experimentation with n-of-1 trials increases medication uptake compared with usual care. Alternating on-off medication in unblinded n-of-1 experiments appears as effective as a blinded experiment. REGISTRATION: URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/ISRCTN11142694; Unique identifier: ISRCTN11142694.