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This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Medical Research Council randomised clinical trial (RCT) of streptomycin in tuberculosis led by Bradford Hill. This is widely regarded as a landmark in clinical research. Despite its widespread use in drug regulation and in clinical research more widely and its high standing with the evidence based medicine movement, the RCT continues to attracts criticism. I show that many of these criticisms are traceable to failure to understand two key concepts in statistics: probabilistic inference and design efficiency. To these methodological misunderstandings can be added the practical one of failing to appreciate that entry into clinical trials is not simultaneous but sequential.
I conclude that although randomisation should not be used as an excuse for ignoring prognostic variables, it is valuable and that many standard criticisms of RCTs are invalid.