A systematic review to investigate the measurement properties of goal attainment scaling, towards use in drug trials

Charlotte M. W. Gaasterland, Marijke C. Jansen-van der Weide, Stephanie S. Weinreich, Johanna H. van der Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


One of the main challenges for drug evaluation in rare diseases is the often heterogeneous course of these diseases. Traditional outcome measures may not be applicable for all patients, when they are in different stages of their disease. For instance, in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the Six Minute Walk Test is often used to evaluate potential new treatments, whereas this outcome is irrelevant for patients who are already in a wheelchair. A measurement instrument such as Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) can evaluate the effect of an intervention on an individual basis, and may be able to include patients even when they are in different stages of their disease. It allows patients to set individual goals, together with their treating professional. However, the validity of GAS as a measurement instrument in drug studies has never been systematically reviewed. Therefore, we have performed a systematic review to answer two questions: 1. Has GAS been used as a measurement instrument in drug studies? 2: What is known of the validity, responsiveness and inter- and intra-rater reliability of GAS, particularly in drug trials? We set up a sensitive search that yielded 3818 abstracts. After careful screening, data-extraction was executed for 58 selected articles. Of the 58 selected articles, 38 articles described drug studies where GAS was used as an outcome measure, and 20 articles described measurement properties of GAS in other settings. The results show that validity, responsiveness and reliability of GAS in drug studies have hardly been investigated. The quality of the reporting of validity in studies in which GAS was used to evaluate a non-drug intervention also leaves much room for improvement. We conclude that there is insufficient information to assess the validity of GAS, due to the poor quality of the validity studies. Therefore, we think that GAS needs further validation in drug studies, especially since GAS can be a potential solution when a small heterogeneous patient group is all there is to test a promising new drug. The protocol has been registered in the PROSPERO international prospective register for systematic reviews, with registration number CRD42014010619. http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.asp?ID=CRD42014010619
Original languageEnglish
Article number99
Pages (from-to)99
JournalBMC medical research methodology
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2016


  • Drug trials
  • Goal attainment scaling
  • Rare diseases
  • Systematic review
  • Validation

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