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Clinical trials management on the internet — I. Using LaTeX and SAS to produce customized forms

Paul A. Thompson

Abstract

In clinical trials, forms are used to gather data which is then entered into a database. Paper-based forms are still the standard for data collection, due to portability, stability, and storage considerations. In producing forms, SI (a SAS product which works with the Internet) is used to facilitate the entry of information about participants in a clinical trial over the internet. Using LaTeX, the forms are then processed to produce a .pdf file. The .pdf is returned to the requesting party using a return page on the web browser. The entire process takes about 20 seconds. The system allows highly customized forms to be produced, in which values are inserted into appropriate locations on the forms. LaTeX is important due to its superior scripting capabilities, while SAS provides a very flexible database to pull information to be inserted into the forms, as well as providing a method for scripting up the entire transaction. The code required for the process and general approach is outlined.

Paul A. Thompson, Ph.D., is Research Associate Professor of Biostatistics at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He participates in many collaborative clinical trials, and uses LaTeX as part of the toolset in the management of these trials. For this purpose, LaTeX is a very useful tool as it can be scripted and produce documents on the fly. He has used LaTeX for more than 25 years, since encountering it at the Ohio State University in 1983. He is the author of the class newlfm, which is a style for the production of letters, faxes, and memos. You can reach Paul at


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