Errata for trial publications are not uncommon, are frequently not trivial, and can be challenging to access: a retrospective review


  • Kelly Farrah Research Information Specialist, Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), Ottawa, ON
  • Danielle Rabb Manager, Research Information Services, Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), Ottawa, ON, Canada



Errata, Systematic Reviews, Information Retrieval, Publications


Objective: The research sought to determine the prevalence of errata for drug trial publications that are included in systematic reviews, their potential value to reviews, and their accessibility via standard information retrieval methods.

Methods: The authors conducted a retrospective review of included studies from forty systematic reviews of drugs evaluated by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) Common Drug Review (CDR) in 2015. For each article that was included in the systematic reviews, we conducted searches for associated errata using the CDR review report, PubMed, and the journal publishers’ websites. The severity of errors described in errata was evaluated using a three-category scale: trivial, minor, or major. The accessibility of errata was determined by examining inclusion in bibliographic databases, costs of obtaining errata, time lag between article and erratum publication, and correction of online articles.

Results: The 40 systematic reviews included 127 articles in total, for which 26 errata were identified. These errata described 38 errors. When classified by severity, 6 errors were major; 20 errors were minor; and 12 errors were trivial. No one database contained all the errata. On average, errata were published 211 days after the original article (range: 15–1,036 days). All were freely available. Over one-third (9/24) of online articles were uncorrected after errata publication.

Conclusion: Errata frequently described non-trivial errors that would either impact the interpretation of data in the article or, in fewer cases, impact the conclusions of the study. As such, it seems useful for reviewers to identify errata associated with included studies. However, publication time lag and inconsistent database indexing impair errata accessibility.


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Original Investigation