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01.12.2018 | Review | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Trials 1/2018

N-of-1 trials in the clinical care of patients in developing countries: a systematic review

Trials > Ausgabe 1/2018
Chalachew Alemayehu, Jane Nikles, Geoffrey Mitchell
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13063-018-2596-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



N-of-1 trials have a potential role in promoting patient-centered medicine in developing countries. However, there is limited academic literature regarding the use of N-of-1 trials in the clinical care of patients in resource-poor settings.


To assess the extent of use, purpose and treatment outcome of N-of-1 trials in developing countries.


A systematic review of clinical N-of-1 trials was conducted between 1985 and September 2015 using PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Grey literature databases and clinical trial registers were also searched. This review included randomized, multi-cycle, crossover within individual patient trials involving drug intervention. Quality assessment and data extraction were conducted by two independent reviewers.


Out of 131 N-of-1 trials identified, only 6 (4.5%) were conducted in developing countries. The major reason that N-of-1 trials were used was to provide evidence on feasibility, effectiveness and safety of therapies. A total of 72 participants were involved in these trials. Five of the studies were conducted in China and all evaluated Chinese traditional medicine. The remaining study was conducted in Brazil. The completion rate was 93%. More than half, 46 (69%) of subjects made medication changes consistent with trial results after trial completion.
A number of threats to the validity of the included evidence limited the validity of the evidence. In particular, the estimated overall effect in four of the included studies could have been affected by the “carry over” of the previous treatment effect as no adequate pharmacokinetic evidence regarding traditional medicines was presented.


The prevalence and scope of N-of-1 trials in developing countries is low. A coordinated effort among government, clinicians, researchers and sponsor organizations is needed to increase their uptake and quality in developing countries.

Systematic review registration

PROSPERO CRD42015026841.
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