"Allocation concealment" (defined as "the procedure for protecting the randomisation process so that the treatment to be allocated is not known before the patient is entered into the study") is important in RCTs. In practice, in taking care of individual patients, clinical investigators in RCTs often find it difficult to maintain impartiality. Stories abound of investigators holding up sealed envelopes to lights or ransacking offices to determine group assignments in order to dictate the assignment of their next patient. Such practices introduce selection bias and confounders (both of which should be minimized by randomization), thereby possibly distorting the results of the study. Adequate allocation concealment should defeat patients and investigators from discovering treatment allocation once a study is underway and after the study has concluded. Treatment related side-effects or adverse events may be specific enough to reveal allocation to investigators or patients thereby introducing bias or influencing any subjective parameters collected by investigators or requested from subjects.
Some standard methods of ensuring allocation concealment include sequentially numbered, opaque, sealed envelopes (SNOSE); sequentially numbered containers; pharmacy controlled randomization; and central randomization. It is recommended that allocation concealment methods be included in an RCT's protocol, and that the allocation concealment methods should be reported in detail in a publication of an RCT's results; however, 2005 study determined that most RCTs have unclear allocation concealment in their protocols, in their publications, or both. On the other hand, a 2008 study of 146 meta-analyses concluded that the results of RCTs with inadequate or unclear allocation concealment tended to be biased toward beneficial effects only if the RCTs' outcomes were subjective as opposed to objective.