Observational trials and large datasets are increasingly being used to answer research questions that randomized controlled trials cannot, according to experts at the Big Data in Biomedicine 2017 Conference in Stanford, California.
Certain issues are not appropriate for randomized controlled trials, such as the value of breast-feeding and the optimum weight for good health, said Mark Cullen, MD, director of the Center for Population Health Sciences at Stanford University.
Observational studies can be faster, less expensive, and better able than large clinical trials to deliver on the promise of precision medicine, he noted.
Each type of study has its place, said Allison Kurian, MD, associate professor of medicine and of health research and policy at Stanford University.
There is "nothing like a randomized controlled trial" for the assessment of novel therapies, "but there are important questions for which observational studies may do as well, or better," she told Medscape Medical News.