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1.  Experiences and challenges in data monitoring for clinical trials within an international tropical disease research network 
Background
Models for the structure and procedures of data and safety monitoring boards (DSMBs) continue to evolve in response to issues of new and of old concern. Some authors have called for an open dialogue on these questions through publication of the experiences of DSMBs in addressing them.
Purpose
The goal of this paper is to add to the current discussion about acceptable models for establishing, serving on, and reporting to monitoring committees, particularly those that oversee multiple studies in less developed countries. The paper seeks to do so by describing the establishment and subsequent operation of one such multi-trial DSMB over a five-year period. This DSMB was formed to monitor trials conducted by members of the International Centers for Tropical Disease Research (ICTDR) network of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Methods The operational model and experiences are summarized by the authors, who had immediate responsibilities for directing the DSMB's activities.
Results
The board played an active, traditional role in assuring that patient safety was maintained and that current standards for clinical research were met. In addition, both NIAID and the board members viewed education of investigators to be an important role for the board to play in this particular setting. This affected the threshold for identifying which trials would be monitored, and it impacted several procedures adopted by the board.
Limitations
This report reflects the observations of those involved in managing the DSMB, including comments offered by the DSMB and by investigators, but not data gathered in a systematic way.
Conclusions
The operational model described here has allowed the DSMB to fulfill its role in the oversight of the trials. We hope that the ideas we present may help others facing similar situations and may stimulate further critical thinking about DSMB structure and function.
doi:10.1177/1740774506070710
PMCID: PMC4058498  PMID: 17060220
2.  The role of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board in a clinical trial: The CRISIS Study 
Objective
Randomized clinical trials are commonly overseen by a data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) comprised of experts in medicine, ethics, and biostatistics. DSMB responsibilities include protocol approval, interim review of study enrollment, protocol compliance, safety, and efficacy data. DSMB decisions can affect study design and conduct, as well as reported findings. Researchers must incorporate DSMB oversight into the design, monitoring, and reporting of randomized trials.
Design
Case study, narrative review.
Methods
The DSMB’s role during the comparative pediatric Critical Illness Stress-Induced Immune Suppression (CRISIS) Prevention Trial is described.
Findings
The NIH-appointed CRISIS DSMB was charged with monitoring sample size adequacy and feasibility, safety with respect to adverse events and 28-day mortality, and efficacy with respect to the primary nosocomial infection/sepsis outcome. The Federal Drug Administration also requested DSMB interim review before opening CRISIS to children below one year of age. The first interim analysis found higher 28-day mortality in one treatment arm. The DSMB maintained trial closure to younger children, and requested a second interim data review six months later. At this second meeting, mortality was no longer of concern, while a weak efficacy trend of lower infection/sepsis rates in one study arm emerged. As over 40% of total patients had been enrolled, the DSMB elected to examine conditional power, and unmask treatment arm identities. Upon finding somewhat greater efficacy in the placebo arm, the DSMB recommended stopping CRISIS due to futility.
Conclusions
The design and operating procedures of a multicenter randomized trial must consider a pivotal DSMB role. Maximum study design flexibility must be allowed, and investigators must be prepared for protocol modifications due to interim findings. The DSMB must have sufficient clinical and statistical expertise to assess potential importance of interim treatment differences in the setting of multiple looks at accumulating data with numerous outcomes and subgroups.
doi:10.1097/PCC.0b013e318274568c
PMCID: PMC3648617  PMID: 23392377
clinical trials; randomized; interim analysis; safety; nosocomial infection; sepsis
3.  Experience collecting interim data on mortality: an example from the RALES study 
Introduction
The Randomized Aldactone Evaluation Study (RALES) randomized 822 patients to receive 25 mg spironolactone daily and 841 to receive placebo. The primary endpoint was death from all causes. Randomization began on March 24, 1995; recruitment was completed on December 31, 1996; follow-up was scheduled to continue through December 31, 1999. Evidence of a sizeable benefit on mortality emerged early in the RALES. The RALES data safety monitoring board (DSMB), which met semiannually throughout the trial, used a prespecified statistical guideline to recommend stopping for efficacy. At the DSMB's request, its meetings were preceded by an 'endpoint sweep', that is, a census of all participants to confirm their vital status.
Methods
We used computer simulation to evaluate the effect of the sweeps.
Results
The sweeps led to an estimated 5 to 8% increase in the number of reported deaths at the fourth and fifth interim analyses. The data crossed the statistical boundary at the fifth interim analysis. If investigators had reported all deaths within the protocol-required 24-h window, the DSMB might have recommended stopping after the fourth interim analysis.
Discussion
Although endpoint sweeps can cause practical problems at the clinical centers, sweeps are very useful if the intervals between patient visits or contact are long or if endpoints require adjudication by committee, reading center, or central laboratory.
Conclusion
We recommend that trials with interim analyses institute active reporting of the primary endpoints and endpoint sweeps.
doi:10.1186/cvm-2-1-059
PMCID: PMC56203  PMID: 11806773
data safety monitoring boards; data sweeps; interim analysis; randomized clinical trials
4.  Data and safety monitoring in social behavioral intervention trials: the REACH II experience 
Background
Psychosocial and behavioral interventions trials targeting a broad range of complex social and behavioral problems such as smoking, obesity and family caregiving have proliferated in the past 30 years. At the same time the use of Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMBs) to monitor the progress and quality of intervention trials and the safety of study participants has increased substantially. Most of the existing literature and guidelines for safety monitoring and reporting of adverse events focuses on medical interventions. Consequently, there is little guidance for investigators conducting social and behavior trials.
Purpose
This paper summarizes how issues associated with safety monitoring and adverse event reporting were handled in the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH II) program, a multisite randomized clinical trial, funded by the National Institutes on Aging (NIA) and the National Institutes of Nursing Research (NINR), that tested the efficacy of a multicomponent social/behavioral intervention for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
Methods
A task force was formed to define adverse events for the trial and protocols for reporting and resolving events that occurred. The task force conducted a review of existing polices and protocols for data and safety monitoring and adverse event reporting and identified potential risks particular to the study population. An informal survey regarding data and safety monitoring procedures with investigators on psychosocial intervention trials was also conducted.
Results
Two categories of events were defined for both caregivers and patients; adverse events and safety alerts. A distinction was also made between events detected at baseline assessment and those detected post-randomization. Standardized protocols were also developed for the reporting and resolution of events that occurred and training of study personnel. Results from the informal survey indicated wide variability in practices for data safety and monitoring across psychosocial intervention trials.
Conclusions
Overall, the REACH II experience demonstrates that existing guidelines regarding safety monitoring and adverse event reporting pose unique challenges for social/behavioral intervention trials. Challenges encountered in the REACH II program included defining and classifying adverse events, defining “resolution” of adverse events and attributing causes for events that occurred. These challenges are highlighted and recommendations for addressing them in future studies are discussed.
doi:10.1191/1740774506cn136oa
PMCID: PMC1484572  PMID: 16773953
5.  Predicting clinical trial results based on announcements of interim analyses 
Trials  2014;15:73.
Background
Announcements of interim analyses of a clinical trial convey information about the results beyond the trial’s Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). The amount of information conveyed may be minimal, but the fact that none of the trial’s stopping boundaries has been crossed implies that the experimental therapy is neither extremely effective nor hopeless. Predicting success of the ongoing trial is of interest to the trial’s sponsor, the medical community, pharmaceutical companies, and investors. We determine the probability of trial success by quantifying only the publicly available information from interim analyses of an ongoing trial. We illustrate our method in the context of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel (NSABP) trial, C-08.
Methods
We simulated trials based on the specifics of the NSABP C-08 protocol that were publicly available. We quantified the uncertainty around the treatment effect using prior weights for the various possibilities in light of other colon cancer studies and other studies of the investigational agent, bevacizumab. We considered alternative prior distributions.
Results
Subsequent to the trial’s third interim analysis, our predictive probabilities were: that the trial would eventually be successful, 48.0%; would stop for futility, 7.4%; and would continue to completion without statistical significance, 44.5%. The actual trial continued to completion without statistical significance.
Conclusions
Announcements of interim analyses provide information outside the DSMB’s sphere of confidentiality. This information is potentially helpful to clinical trial prognosticators. ‘Information leakage’ from standard interim analyses such as in NSABP C-08 is conventionally viewed as acceptable even though it may be quite revealing. Whether leakage from more aggressive types of adaptations is acceptable should be assessed at the design stage.
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-73
PMCID: PMC3973959  PMID: 24607270
Predictive probabilities; DSMB; Interim analyses; Operational bias; Prior distribution; Bevacizumab; Colon cancer
6.  Acupuncture for glaucoma 
Background
Glaucoma is a multifactorial optic neuropathy characterized by an acquired loss of retinal ganglion cells at levels beyond normal age-related loss and corresponding atrophy of the optic nerve. Although many treatments are available to manage glaucoma, glaucoma is a chronic condition. Some patients may seek complementary or alternative medicine approaches such as acupuncture to supplement their regular treatment. The underlying plausibility of acupuncture is that disorders related to the flow of Chi (the traditional Chinese concept translated as vital force or energy) can be prevented or treated by stimulating relevant points on the body surface.
Objectives
The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in people with glaucoma.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 12), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily, Ovid OLDMEDLINE (January 1946 to January 2013), EMBASE (January 1980 to January 2013), Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences (LILACS) (January 1982 to January 2013), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) (January 1937 to January 2013), ZETOC (January 1993 to January 2013), Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) (January 1985 to January 2013), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (www.controlled-trials.com), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov), the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (IC-TRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web site (NCCAM) (http://nccam.nih.gov). We did not use any language or date restrictions in the search for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 8 January 2013 with the exception of NCCAM which was last searched on 14 July 2010. We also handsearched Chinese medical journals at Peking Union Medical College Library in April 2007.
We searched the Chinese Acupuncture Trials Register, the Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS), and the Chinese Biological Database (CBM) for the original review; we did not search these databases for the 2013 review update.
Selection criteria
We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in which one arm of the study involved acupuncture treatment.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently evaluated the search results and then full text articles against the eligibility criteria. We resolved discrepancies by discussion.
Main results
We included one completed and one ongoing trial, and recorded seven trials awaiting assessment for eligibility. These seven trials were written in Chinese and were identified from a systematic review on the same topic published in a Chinese journal. The completed trial compared auricular acupressure- a nonstandard acupuncture technique- with the sham procedure for glaucoma. This trial is rated at high risk of bias for masking of outcome assessors, unclear risk of bias for selective outcome reporting, and low risk of bias for other domains. The difference in intraocular pressure (measured in mm Hg) in the acupressure group was significantly less than that in the sham group at four weeks (−3.70, 95% confidence interval [CI] −7.11 to −0.29 for the right eye; −4.90, 95% CI −8.08 to −1.72 for the left eye), but was not statistically different at any other follow-up time points, including the longest follow-up time at eight weeks. No statistically significant difference in visual acuity was noted at any follow-up time points. The ongoing trial was registered with the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) of the World Health Organization. To date this trial has not recruited any participants.
Authors’ conclusions
At this time, it is impossible to draw reliable conclusions from available data to support the use of acupuncture for the treatment of glaucoma. Because of ethical considerations, RCTs comparing acupuncture alone with standard glaucoma treatment or placebo are unlikely to be justified in countries where the standard of care has already been established. Because most glaucoma patients currently cared for by ophthalmologists do not use nontraditional therapy, clinical practice decisions will have to be based on physician judgments and patient preferences, given this lack of data in the literature. Inclusion of the seven Chinese trials in future updates of this review may change our conclusions.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006030.pub3
PMCID: PMC4260653  PMID: 23728656
Acupuncture Therapy [*methods]; Acupuncture, Ear; Glaucoma [*therapy]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Humans
7.  Midcourse correction to a clinical trial when the event rate is underestimated: the Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Study 
The Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) Study is a long-term clinical trial that aims to determine the cardiovascular disease (CVD) benefits of an intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) in obese adults with type 2 diabetes. The study was designed to have 90% statistical power to detect an 18% reduction in the CVD event rate in the ILI Group compared to the Diabetes Support and Education (DSE) Group over 10.5 years of follow-up.
The original power calculations were based on an expected CVD rate of 3.125% per year in the DSE group; however, a much lower-than-expected rate in the first 2 years of follow-up prompted the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) to recommend that the Steering Committee undertake a formal blinded evaluation of these design considerations. The Steering Committee created an Endpoint Working Group (EPWG) that consisted of individuals masked to study data to examine relevant issues.
The EPWG considered two primary options: (1) expanding the definition of the primary endpoint and (2) extending follow-up of participants. Ultimately, the EPWG recommended that the Look AHEAD Steering Committee approve both strategies. The DSMB accepted these modifications, rather than recommending that the trial continue with inadequate statistical power.
Trialists sometimes need to modify endpoints after launch. This decision should be well justified and should be made by individuals who are fully masked to interim results that could introduce bias. This article describes this process in the Look AHEAD study and places it in the context of recent articles on endpoint modification and recent trials that reported endpoint modification.
doi:10.1177/1740774511432726
PMCID: PMC3790961  PMID: 22334468
8.  Sharing Individual Participant Data from Clinical Trials: An Opinion Survey Regarding the Establishment of a Central Repository 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e97886.
Background
Calls have been made for increased access to individual participant data (IPD) from clinical trials, to ensure that complete evidence is available. However, despite the obvious benefits, progress towards this is frustratingly slow. In the meantime, many systematic reviews have already collected IPD from clinical trials. We propose that a central repository for these IPD should be established to ensure that these datasets are safeguarded and made available for use by others, building on the strengths and advantages of the collaborative groups that have been brought together in developing the datasets.
Objective
Evaluate the level of support, and identify major issues, for establishing a central repository of IPD.
Design
On-line survey with email reminders.
Participants
71 reviewers affiliated with the Cochrane Collaboration's IPD Meta-analysis Methods Group were invited to participate.
Results
30 (42%) invitees responded: 28 (93%) had been involved in an IPD review and 24 (80%) had been involved in a randomised trial. 25 (83%) agreed that a central repository was a good idea and 25 (83%) agreed that they would provide their IPD for central storage. Several benefits of a central repository were noted: safeguarding and standardisation of data, increased efficiency of IPD meta-analyses, knowledge advancement, and facilitating future clinical, and methodological research. The main concerns were gaining permission from trial data owners, uncertainty about the purpose of the repository, potential resource implications, and increased workload for IPD reviewers. Restricted access requiring approval, data security, anonymisation of data, and oversight committees were highlighted as issues under governance of the repository.
Conclusion
There is support in this community of IPD reviewers, many of whom are also involved in clinical trials, for storing IPD in a central repository. Results from this survey are informing further work on developing a repository of IPD which is currently underway by our group.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097886
PMCID: PMC4038514  PMID: 24874700
9.  The Role of NETT in Emphysema Research 
Lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) is one of a long lineage of surgical approaches to emphysema. The reintroduction of this operation in the mid-1990s led to great controversy over the value of the procedure and its long-term outcomes. The National Emphysema Treatment Trial (NETT) represented an historical scientific collaboration of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ). NETT was designed primarily as a pivotal surgical clinical trial, but also incorporated data collection to inform health policy and cost-benefit analyses. NETT faced challenges that included practical and ethical matters, statistical design and analysis issues, and intense public and political scrutiny. The study design required the development of methods for pulmonary rehabilitation, lung imaging, and exercise testing that have become templates for current clinical and research practice. During the course of the trial, the confidential deliberations of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) played an important role in the ultimate success of the trial and protection of research participants. Because of the importance of the NETT outcomes, the results were disseminated to the medical community and transformed into health policy in a rapid and efficient manner. In many ways, the story of NETT serves as a model for evaluation of new surgical approaches to chronic diseases.
doi:10.1513/pats.200709-153ET
PMCID: PMC2645308  PMID: 18453344
lung volume reduction surgery; randomized clinical trials; bioethics; clinical trials data monitoring committee; cost-benefit analysis
10.  The Esophageal Pressure-Guided Ventilation 2 (EPVent2) trial protocol: a multicentre, randomised clinical trial of mechanical ventilation guided by transpulmonary pressure 
BMJ Open  2014;4(10):e006356.
Introduction
Optimal ventilator management for patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) remains uncertain. Lower tidal volume ventilation appears to be beneficial, but optimal management of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) remains unclear. The Esophageal Pressure-Guided Ventilation 2 Trial (EPVent2) aims to examine the impact of mechanical ventilation directed at maintaining a positive transpulmonary pressure (PTP) in patients with moderate-to-severe ARDS.
Methods and analysis
EPVent2 is a multicentre, prospective, randomised, phase II clinical trial testing the hypothesis that the use of a PTP-guided ventilation strategy will lead to improvement in composite outcomes of mortality and time off the ventilator at 28 days as compared with a high-PEEP control. This study will enrol 200 study participants from 11 hospitals across North America. The trial will utilise a primary composite end point that incorporates death and days off the ventilator at 28 days to test the primary hypothesis that adjusting ventilator pressure to achieve positive PTP values will result in improved mortality and ventilator-free days.
Ethics and dissemination
Safety oversight will be under the direction of an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). Approval of the protocol was obtained from the DSMB prior to enrolling the first study participant. Approvals of the protocol as well as informed consent documents were also obtained from the Institutional Review Board of each participating institution prior to enrolling study participants at each respective site. The findings of this investigation, as well as associated ancillary studies, will be disseminated in the form of oral and abstract presentations at major national and international medical specialty meetings. The primary objective and other significant findings will also be presented in manuscript form. All final, published manuscripts resulting from this protocol will be submitted to PubMed Central in accordance with the National Institute of Health Public Access Policy.
Trial registration number
ClinicalTrials.gov under number NCT01681225.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006356
PMCID: PMC4187996  PMID: 25287106
acute respiratory distress syndrome; transpulmonary pressure; esophageal balloon; clinical trial; acute lung injury
11.  Ghost Authorship in Industry-Initiated Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e19.
Background
Ghost authorship, the failure to name, as an author, an individual who has made substantial contributions to an article, may result in lack of accountability. The prevalence and nature of ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomised trials is not known.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort study comparing protocols and corresponding publications for industry-initiated trials approved by the Scientific-Ethical Committees for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in 1994–1995. We defined ghost authorship as present if individuals who wrote the trial protocol, performed the statistical analyses, or wrote the manuscript, were not listed as authors of the publication, or as members of a study group or writing committee, or in an acknowledgment. We identified 44 industry-initiated trials. We did not find any trial protocol or publication that stated explicitly that the clinical study report or the manuscript was to be written or was written by the clinical investigators, and none of the protocols stated that clinical investigators were to be involved with data analysis. We found evidence of ghost authorship for 33 trials (75%; 95% confidence interval 60%–87%). The prevalence of ghost authorship was increased to 91% (40 of 44 articles; 95% confidence interval 78%–98%) when we included cases where a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author. In 31 trials, the ghost authors we identified were statisticians. It is likely that we have overlooked some ghost authors, as we had very limited information to identify the possible omission of other individuals who would have qualified as authors.
Conclusions
Ghost authorship in industry-initiated trials is very common. Its prevalence could be considerably reduced, and transparency improved, if existing guidelines were followed, and if protocols were publicly available.
Of 44 industry-initiated trials, there was evidence of ghost authorship in 33, increasing to 40 when a person qualifying for authorship was acknowledged rather than appearing as an author.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Original scientific findings are usually published in the form of a “paper”, whether it is actually distributed on paper, or circulated via the internet, as this one is. Papers are normally prepared by a group of researchers who did the research and are then listed at the top of the article. These authors therefore take responsibility for the integrity of the results and interpretation of them. However, many people are worried that sometimes the author list on the paper does not tell the true story of who was involved. In particular, for clinical research, case histories and previous research has suggested that “ghost authorship” is commonplace. Ghost authors are people who were involved in some way in the research study, or writing the paper, but who have been left off the final author list. This might happen because the study “looks” more credible if the true authors (for example, company employees or freelance medical writers) are not revealed. This practice might hide competing interests that readers should be aware of, and has therefore been condemned by academics, groups of editors, and some pharmaceutical companies.
Why Was This Study Done?
This group of researchers wanted to get an idea of how often ghost authorship happened in medical research done by companies. Previous studies looking into this used surveys, whereby the researchers would write to one author on each of a group of papers to ask whether anyone else had been involved in the work but who was not listed on the paper. These sorts of studies typically underestimate the rate of ghost authorship, because the main author might not want to admit what had been going on. However, the researchers here managed to get access to trial protocols (documents setting out the plans for future research studies), which gave them a way to investigate ghost authorship.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In order to investigate the frequency and type of ghost authorship, these researchers identified every trial which was approved between 1994 and 1995 by the ethics committees of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg in Denmark. Then they winnowed this group down to include only the trials that were sponsored by industry (pharmaceutical companies and others), and only those trials that were finished and published. The protocols for each trial were obtained from the ethics committees and the researchers then matched up each protocol with its corresponding paper. Then, they compared names which appeared in the protocol against names appearing on the eventual paper, either on the author list or acknowledged elsewhere in the paper as being involved. The researchers ended up studying 44 trials. For 31 of these (75% of them) they found some evidence of ghost authorship, in that people were identified as having written the protocol or who had been involved in doing statistical analyses or writing the manuscript, but did not end up listed in the manuscript. If the definition of authorship was made narrower, and “ghost authorship” included people qualifying for authorship who were mentioned in the acknowledgements but not the author list, the researchers' estimate went up to 91%, that is 40 of the 44 trials. For most of the trials with missing authors, the ghost was a statistician (the person who analyzes the trial data).
What Do These Findings Mean?
In this study, the researchers found that ghost authorship was very common in papers published in medical journals (this study covered a broad range of peer-reviewed journals in many medical disciplines). The method used in this paper seems more reliable than using surveys to work out how often ghost authorship happens. The researchers aimed to define authorship using the policies set out by a group called the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), and the findings here suggest that the ICMJE's standards for authorship are very often ignored. This means that people who read the published paper cannot always accurately judge or trust the information presented within it, and competing interests may be hidden. The researchers here suggest that protocols should be made publicly available so that everyone can see what trials are planned and who is involved in conducting them. The findings also suggest that journals should not only list the authors of each paper but describe what each author has done, so that the published information accurately reflects what has been carried out.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040019.
Read the Perspective by Liz Wager, which discusses these findings in more depth
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is a group of general medical journal editors who have produced general guidelines for biomedical manuscripts; their definition of authorship is also described
The Committee on Publication Ethics is a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record; the Web site lists anonymized problems and the committee's advice, not just regarding authorship, but other types of problems as well
Good Publication Practice for Pharmaceutical Companies outlines common standards for publication of industry-sponsored medical research, and some pharmaceutical companies have agreed to these
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040019
PMCID: PMC1769411  PMID: 17227134
12.  Informative value of Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) in Health Technology Assessment (HTA) 
Background
“Patient-Reported Outcome” (PRO) is used as an umbrella term for different concepts for measuring subjectively perceived health status e. g. as treatment effects. Their common characteristic is, that the appraisal of the health status is reported by the patient himself. In order to describe the informative value of PRO in Health Technology Assessment (HTA) first an overview of concepts, classifications and methods of measurement is given. The overview is complemented by an empirical analysis of clinical trials and HTA-reports on rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer in order to report on type, frequency and consequences of PRO used in these documents.
Methods
For both issues systematic reviews of the literature have been performed. The search for methodological literature covers the publication period from 1990 to 2009, the search for clinical trials of rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer covers the period 2005 to 2009. Both searches were performed in the medical databases of the German Institute of Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI). The search for HTA-reports and methodological papers of HTA-agencies was performed in the CRD-Databases (CRD = Centre for Reviews and Dissemination) and by handsearching the websites of INAHTA member agencies (INAHTA = International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment). For all issues specific inclusion and exclusion criteria were defined. The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials (RCT) was assessed by a modified version of the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool. For the methodological part information extraction from the literature is structured by the report’s chapters, for the empirical part data extraction sheets were constructed. All information is summarized in a qualitative manner.
Results
Concerning the methodological issues the literature search retrieved 158 documents (87 documents related to definition or classification, 125 documents related to operationalisation of PRO). For the empirical analyses 225 RCT (rheumatoid arthritis: 77; breast cancer: 148) and 40 HTA-reports and method papers were found.
The analysis of the methodological literature confirms the role of PRO as an umbrella term for a variety of different concepts. The newest classification system facilitates the description of PRO measures by construct, target population and the method of measurement. Steps of operationalisation involve defining a conceptual framework, instrument development, exploration of measurement properties or, possibly, the modification of existing instruments.
Seven out of 59 RCT analysing the effects of antibody therapy for rheumatoid arthritis define PRO as the primary endpoint, 38 trials utilize composite measures (ACR, DAS) and ten trials report clinical or radiological parameters as the primary endpoint. Six out of 123 chemotherapy trials for breast cancer define PRO as the primary endpoint, while 98 trials report clinical endpoints (survival, tumour response, progression) in their primary analyses. Discrepancies in the number of trials result from inaccurate specifications of endpoints in the publications. This distribution is reflected in the HTA-reports: while almost all reports on rheumatoid arthritis refer to PRO, this is only the case in about half of the reports on breast cancer.
Conclusions
As definition and classification of PRO are concerned, coherent concepts are found in the literature. Their operationalisation and implementation must be guided by scientific principles. The type and frequency of PRO used in clinical trials largely depend on the disease analysed. The HTA-community seems to pursue the utilization of PRO proactively – in case of missing data the need for further research is stated.
doi:10.3205/hta000092
PMCID: PMC3070434  PMID: 21468289
patient-reported outcome; patient reported outcome; quality of life; rheumatoid arthritis; carcinoma of the breast; breast cancer; clinical trials; clinical studies; Health Technology Assessment; concept; HTA report; HTA-report; endpoint determination; efficiency; efficacy; effectiveness; cost-effectiveness; costs; cost analysis; cost-benefit-analyses; cost control; medical costs; sickness costs; cost-cutting; cost reduction; systematic review; HTA; technology assessment; medical assessment; technology evaluation; medical evaluation; health economics; health economic studies; evidence based medicine; EBM; ethics; juridical; social economic factors; socioeconomics; economic aspect; pharmacoeconomics; diagnosis; prevention; rehabilitation; therapy; treatment; review; academic review; review literature; research article; research-article; report; technical report; methods; care; meta analysis; meta-analysis; randomised controlled trial; randomized controlled trial; randomised controlled study; randomized controlled study; randomised clinical trial; randomized clinical trial; randomised trial; randomized trial; randomised clinical study; randomized clinical study; randomised study; randomized study; RCT; randomisation; randomization; random allocation; random; accident; controlled clinical trial; controlled clinical study; blinded; blinding; blinded study; blinded trial; single-blind; single blind; single-blind method; single blind procedure; single-blind procedure; doubleblind; double blind; double-blind method; double-blind procedure; double blind procedure; triple blind; tripleblind; triple blind method; tripleblind method; triple blind procedure; triple-blind procedure; placebo; placebo effect; validation studies; multicenter studies; multicenter trials; cross-over studies; cross-over trials; crossover procedure; cross-over procedure; sensitivity; specifity; patient-relevant; patient-relevant endpoint; endpoint; patient report; patient statement; arthritis, rheumatoid; breast neoplasms; clinical trials as topic; technology assessment, biomedical; humans; patients; patient satisfaction; evidence-based medicine; biomedical technology assessment; economics; health policy; technology, medical; review literature as topic; costs and cost analysis; cost-benefit analyses; cost effectiveness; rights; decision making; risk assessment; technology; evaluation studies as topic; health; health status; judgement; peer review; meta analysis as topic; randomized controlled trials as topic; single blind method; double blind method; placebos; controlled clinical trials as topic; prospective studies; trial, cross-over; trial, crossover; validation studies as topic; multicenter trial; multicenter studies as topic; models, economic; economics, medical; socioeconomic factors
13.  DIABRISK - SL Prevention of cardio-metabolic disease with life style modification in young urban Sri Lankan's - study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:209.
Background
Urban South-Asian's are predisposed to early onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). There is an urgent need for country specific primary prevention strategies to address the growing burden of cardio-metabolic disease in this population. The aim of this clinical trial is to evaluate whether intensive (3-monthly) lifestyle modification advice is superior to a less-intensive (12 monthly; control group) lifestyle modification advice on a primary composite cardio-metabolic end point in 'at risk' urban subjects aged between 5-40 years.
Methods/Design
This is an open randomised controlled parallel group clinical trial performed at a single centre in Colombo, Sri-Lanka. A cluster sampling strategy was used to select a large representative sample of subjects aged between 5-40 years at high risk of T2DM and CVD for the intervention study. We have screened 23,298 (males 47% females 53%) healthy subjects for four risk factors: obesity, elevated waist circumference, family history of diabetes and physical inactivity, using a questionnaire and anthropometry. Those with two or more risk-factors were recruited to the intervention trial. We aim to recruit 4600 subjects for the intervention trial. The primary composite cardio-metabolic end point is; new onset T2DM, impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glycaemia, new onset hypertension and albuminuria, following 5 years of intervention. The effect of the intervention on pre-specified secondary endpoints will also be evaluated. The study will be conducted according to good clinical and ethical practice, data analysis and reporting guidelines.
Discussion
DIABRISK-SL is a large population based trial to evaluate the prevalence of diabetes, pre-diabetes and cardio-metabolic risk factors among young urban Sri-Lankans and the effect of a primary prevention strategy on cardio-metabolic disease end points. This work will enable country specific and regional cardio-metabolic risk scores to be derived. Further if the proposed intervention is successful the results of this study can be translated and implemented as a low-cost primary prevention tool in Sri-Lanka and other low/middle income developing countries.
Trial registration
The trial is registered with the World Health Organisation and Sri-Lanka clinical trial registry number SLCTR/2008/003
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-209
PMCID: PMC3197497  PMID: 21943067
14.  25th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, San Antonio, Texas, USA, 10–14 December 2002 Update on clinical research 
Breast Cancer Research  2003;5(2):113-116.
The Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium has become a key forum for the presentation and discussion of both translational scientific aspects as well as clinical aspects of breast cancer care. In this report of the 25th Annual Meeting, an update of the salient clinical data is presented. The findings of the CALGB 9741 trial, an updated analysis of the Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination study, and other significant paper and poster presentations are discussed. Summaries are also given of the clinical plenary lectures and minisymposia on adjuvant therapy and aromatase inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC154154  PMID: 12631392
adjuvant chemotherapy; anastrozole; aromatase inhibitor; tamoxifen; trastuzumab
15.  The 21st International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, Brussels, Belgium, 20-23 March 2001 
Critical Care  2001;5(3):138-141.
The 21st International Symposium on Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine was dominated by the results of recent clinical trials in sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The promise of extracorporeal liver replacement therapy and noninvasive ventilation were other areas of interest. Ethical issues also received attention. Overall, the 'state of the art' lectures, pro/con debates, seminars and tutorials were of a high standard. The meeting was marked by a sense of renewed enthusiasm that positive progress is occurring in intensive care medicine.
doi:10.1186/cc1013
PMCID: PMC137274  PMID: 11353930
ARDS; ethics; hepatic failure; non-invasive ventilation; sepsis
16.  Design and Initial Results of a Multi-Phase Randomized Trial of Ceftriaxone in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61177.
Objectives
Ceftriaxone increases expression of the astrocytic glutamate transporter, EAAT2, which might protect from glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity. A trial using a novel three stage nonstop design, incorporating Phases I-III, tested ceftriaxone in ALS. Stage 1 determined the cerebrospinal fluid pharmacokinetics of ceftriaxone in subjects with ALS. Stage 2 evaluated safety and tolerability for 20-weeks. Analysis of the pharmacokinetics, tolerability, and safety was used to determine the ceftriaxone dosage for Stage 3 efficacy testing.
Methods
In Stage 1, 66 subjects at ten clinical sites were enrolled and randomized equally into three study groups receiving intravenous placebo, ceftriaxone 2 grams daily or ceftriaxone 4 grams daily divided BID. Participants provided serum and cerebrospinal fluid for pharmacokinetic analysis on study day 7. Participants continued their assigned treatment in Stage 2. The Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) reviewed the data after the last participants completed 20 weeks on study drug.
Results
Stage 1 analysis revealed linear pharmacokinetics, and CSF trough levels for both dosage levels exceeding the pre-specified target trough level of 1 µM (0.55 µg/mL). Tolerability (Stages 1 and 2) results showed that ceftriaxone at dosages up to 4 grams/day was well tolerated at 20 weeks. Biliary adverse events were more common with ceftriaxone but not dose-dependent and improved with ursodeoxycholic (ursodiol) therapy.
Conclusions
The goals of Stages 1 and 2 of the ceftriaxone trial were successfully achieved. Based on the pre-specified decision rules, the DSMB recommended the use of ceftriaxone 4 g/d (divided BID) for Stage 3, which recently closed.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00349622.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061177
PMCID: PMC3629222  PMID: 23613806
17.  Adjuvant (post-surgery) chemotherapy for early stage epithelial ovarian cancer 
Background
Epithelial ovarian cancer is diagnosed in 4500 women in the UK each year of whom 1700 will ultimately die of their disease.Of all cases 10% to 15% are diagnosed early when there is still a good possibility of cure. The treatment of early stage disease involves surgery to remove disease often followed by chemotherapy. The largest clinical trials of this adjuvant therapy show an overall survival (OS) advantage with adjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy but the precise role of this treatment in subgroups of women with differing prognoses needs to be defined.
Objectives
To systematically review the evidence for adjuvant chemotherapy in early stage epithelial ovarian cancer to determine firstly whether there is a survival advantage of this treatment over the policy of observation following surgery with chemotherapy reserved for treatment of disease recurrence, and secondly to determine if clinical subgroups of differing prognosis based on histological sub-type, or completeness of surgical staging, have more or less to gain from chemotherapy following initial surgery.
Search methods
We performed an electronic search using the Cochrane Gynaecological Cancer Specialised Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2011, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1948 to Aug week 5, 2011) and EMBASE (1980 to week 36, 2011). We developed the search strategy using free-text and medical subject headings (MESH).
Selection criteria
We selected randomised clinical trials that met the inclusion criteria set out based on the populations, interventions, comparisons and outcome measures.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. Disagreements were resolved by discussion with a third review author. We performed random-effects meta-analyses and subgroup analyses.
Main results
Five randomised controlled trials (RCTs), enrolling 1277 women, with a median follow-up of 46 to 121 months, met the inclusion criteria. Four trials were included in the meta-analyses and we considered them to be at a low risk of bias. Meta-analysis of five-year data from three trials indicated that women who received adjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy had better overall survival (OS) than those who did not (1008 women; hazard ratio (HR) 0.71; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.53 to 0.93). Likewise, meta-analysis of five-year data from four trials indicated that women who received adjuvant chemotherapy had better progression-free survival (PFS) than those who did not (1170 women; HR 0.67; 95% CI 0.53 to 0.84). The trials included in these meta-analyses gave consistent estimates of the effects of chemotherapy. In addition, these findings were robust over time (10-year PFS: two trials, 925 women; HR 0.67; 95% CI 0.54 to 0.84).
Subgroup analysis suggested that women who had optimal surgical staging of their disease were unlikely to benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy (HR for OS 1.22; 95% CI 0.63 to 2.37; two trials, 234 women) whereas those who had sub-optimal staging did (HR for OS 0.63; 95% CI 0.46 to 0.85; two trials, 772 women). One trial showed a benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy among women at high risk (HR for OS 0.48; 95% CI 0.32 to 0.72) but not among those at low/medium risk (HR for OS 0.95; 95% CI 0.54 to 1.66). However, these subgroup findings could be due to chance and should be interpreted with caution.
Authors’ conclusions
Adjuvant platinum-based chemotherapy is effective in prolonging the survival of the majority of patients who are assessed as having early (FIGO stage I/IIa) epithelial ovarian cancer. However, it may be withheld from women in whom there is well-differentiated encapsulated unilateral disease (stage 1a grade 1) or those with comprehensively staged Ib, well or moderately differentiated (grade 1/2) disease. Others with unstaged early disease or those with poorly differentiated tumours should be offered chemotherapy. A pragmatic approach may be necessary in clinical settings where optimal staging is not normally performed/achieved. In such settings, adjuvant chemotherapy may be withheld from those with encapsulated stage Ia grade 1 serous and endometrioid carcinoma and offered to all others with early stage disease.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004706.pub4
PMCID: PMC4164914  PMID: 22419298
Antineoplastic Agents [*therapeutic use]; Carboplatin [therapeutic use]; Chemotherapy, Adjuvant [methods]; Cisplatin [therapeutic use]; Disease-Free Survival; Early Detection of Cancer; Melphalan [therapeutic use]; Neoplasm Staging; Ovarian Neoplasms [*drug therapy; pathology; surgery]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Female; Humans
18.  Systematic review of safety in paediatric drug trials published in 2007 
Background
There is now greater involvement of children in drug trials to ensure that paediatric medicines are supported by sound scientific evidence. The safety of the participating children is of paramount importance. Previous research shows that these children can suffer moderate and severe adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in clinical trials, yet very few of the trials designated a data safety monitoring board (DSMB) to oversee the trial.
Methods
Safety data from a systematic review of paediatric drug randomised controlled trials (RCTs) published in 2007 were analysed. All reported adverse events (AEs) were classified and assessed to determine whether an ADR had been experienced. ADRs were then categorised according to severity. Each trial report was examined as to whether an independent DSMB was in place.
Results
Of the 582 paediatric drug RCTs analysed, 210 (36%) reported that a serious AE had occurred, and in 15% mortality was reported. ADRs were detected in more than half of the RCTs (305); 66 (11%) were severe, and 79 (14%) were moderate. Severe ADRs involved a wide range of organ systems and were frequently associated with cytotoxic drugs, antiparasitics, anticonvulsants and psychotropic drugs. Two RCTs reported significantly higher mortality rates in the treatment group. Only 69 (12%) of the RCTs stated there was a DSMB. DSMBs terminated five RCTs and changed the protocol in one.
Conclusions
Children participating in drug RCTs experience a significant amount and a wide range of ADRs. DSMBs are needed to ensure the safety of paediatric participants in clinical drug trials.
doi:10.1007/s00228-011-1112-6
PMCID: PMC3256313  PMID: 21858432
Paediatric clinical trials; Adverse drug reactions (ADRs); Drug safety; Data safety monitoring boards (DSMBs); Systematic review
19.  Lung Injury Prevention with Aspirin (LIPS-A): a protocol for a multicentre randomised clinical trial in medical patients at high risk of acute lung injury 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001606.
Introduction
Acute lung injury (ALI) is a devastating condition that places a heavy burden on public health resources. Although the need for effective ALI prevention strategies is increasingly recognised, no effective preventative strategies exist. The Lung Injury Prevention Study with Aspirin (LIPS-A) aims to test whether aspirin (ASA) could prevent and/or mitigate the development of ALI.
Methods and analysis
LIPS-A is a multicentre, double-blind, randomised clinical trial testing the hypothesis that the early administration of ASA will result in a reduced incidence of ALI in adult patients at high risk. This investigation will enrol 400 study participants from 14 hospitals across the USA. Conditional logistic regression will be used to test the primary hypothesis that early ASA administration will decrease the incidence of ALI.
Ethics and dissemination
Safety oversight will be under the direction of an independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). Approval of the protocol was obtained from the DSMB prior to enrolling the first study participant. Approval of both the protocol and informed consent documents were also obtained from the institutional review board of each participating institution prior to enrolling study participants at the respective site. In addition to providing important clinical and mechanistic information, this investigation will inform the scientific merit and feasibility of a phase III trial on ASA as an ALI prevention agent. The findings of this investigation, as well as associated ancillary studies, will be disseminated in the form of oral and abstract presentations at major national and international medical specialty meetings. The primary objective and other significant findings will also be presented in manuscript form. All final, published manuscripts resulting from this protocol will be submitted to Pub Med Central in accordance with the National Institute of Health Public Access Policy.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001606
PMCID: PMC3437429  PMID: 22952165
acute lung injury; acute respiratory ditress syndrome; aspirin; critical illness; prevention; clinical trial
20.  A Systematic Review of Studies That Aim to Determine Which Outcomes to Measure in Clinical Trials in Children  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(4):e96.
Background
In clinical trials the selection of appropriate outcomes is crucial to the assessment of whether one intervention is better than another. Selection of inappropriate outcomes can compromise the utility of a trial. However, the process of selecting the most suitable outcomes to include can be complex. Our aim was to systematically review studies that address the process of selecting outcomes or outcome domains to measure in clinical trials in children.
Methods and Findings
We searched Cochrane databases (no date restrictions) in December 2006; and MEDLINE (1950 to 2006), CINAHL (1982 to 2006), and SCOPUS (1966 to 2006) in January 2007 for studies of the selection of outcomes for use in clinical trials in children. We also asked a group of experts in paediatric clinical research to refer us to any other relevant studies. From these articles we extracted data on the clinical condition of interest, description of the method used to select outcomes, the people involved in the selection process, the outcomes selected, and limitations of the method as defined by the authors. The literature search identified 8,889 potentially relevant abstracts. Of these, 70 were retrieved, and 25 were included in the review. These studies described the work of 13 collaborations representing various paediatric specialties including critical care, gastroenterology, haematology, psychiatry, neurology, respiratory paediatrics, rheumatology, neonatal medicine, and dentistry. Two groups utilised the Delphi technique, one used the nominal group technique, and one used both methods to reach a consensus about which outcomes should be measured in clinical trials. Other groups used semistructured discussion, and one group used a questionnaire-based survey. The collaborations involved clinical experts, research experts, and industry representatives. Three groups involved parents of children affected by the particular condition.
Conclusions
Very few studies address the appropriate choice of outcomes for clinical research with children, and in most paediatric specialties no research has been undertaken. Among the studies we did assess, very few involved parents or children in selecting outcomes that should be measured, and none directly involved children. Research should be undertaken to identify the best way to involve parents and children in assessing which outcomes should be measured in clinical trials.
Ian Sinha and colleagues show, in a systematic review of published studies, that there are very few studies that address the appropriate choice of outcomes for clinical research with children.
Editors' Summary
Background.
When adult patients are given a drug for a disease by their doctors, they can be sure that its benefits and harms will have been carefully studied in clinical trials. Clinical researchers will have asked how well the drug does when compared to other drugs by giving groups of patients the various treatments and determining several “outcomes.” These are measurements carefully chosen in advance by clinical experts that ensure that trials provide as much information as possible about how effectively a drug deals with a specific disease and whether it has any other effects on patients' health and daily life. The situation is very different, however, for pediatric (child) patients. About three-quarters of the drugs given to children are “off-label”—they have not been specifically tested in children. The assumption used to be that children are just small people who can safely take drugs tested in adults provided the dose is scaled down. However, it is now known that children's bodies handle many drugs differently from adult bodies and that a safe dose for an adult can sometimes kill a child even after scaling down for body size. Consequently, regulatory bodies in the US, Europe, and elsewhere now require clinical trials to be done in children and drugs for pediatric use to be specifically licensed.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because children are not small adults, the methodology used to design trials involving children needs to be adapted from that used to design trials in adult patients. In particular, the process of selecting the outcomes to include in pediatric trials needs to take into account the differences between adults and children. For example, because children's brains are still developing, it may be important to include outcome measures that will detect any effect that drugs have on intellectual development. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertook a systematic review of the medical literature to discover how much is known about the best way to select outcomes in clinical trials in children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a predefined search strategy to identify all the studies published since 1950 that examined the selection of outcomes in clinical trials in children. They also asked experts in pediatric clinical research for details of relevant studies. Only 25 studies, which covered several pediatric specialties and were published by 13 collaborative groups, met the strict eligibility criteria laid down by the researchers for their systematic review. Several approaches previously used to choose outcomes in clinical trials in adults were used in these studies to select outcomes. Two groups used the “Delphi” technique, in which opinions are sought from individuals, collated, and fed back to the individuals to generate discussion and a final, consensus agreement. One group used the “nominal group technique,” which involves the use of structured face-to-face discussions to develop a solution to a problem followed by a vote. Another group used both methods. The remaining groups (except one that used a questionnaire) used semistructured discussion meetings or workshops to decide on outcomes. Although most of the groups included clinical experts, people doing research on the specific clinical condition under investigation, and industry representatives, only three groups asked parents about which outcomes should be included in the trials, and none asked children directly.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that very few studies have addressed the selection of appropriate outcomes for clinical research in children. Indeed, in many pediatric specialties no research has been done on this important topic. Importantly, some of the studies included in this systematic review clearly show that it is inappropriate to use the outcomes used in adult clinical trials in pediatric populations. Overall, although the studies identified in this review provide some useful information on the selection of outcomes in clinical trials in children, further research is urgently needed to ensure that this process is made easier and more uniform. In particular, much more research must be done to determine the best way to involve children and their parents in the selection of outcomes.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050096.
A related PLoSMedicine Perspective article is available
The European Medicines Agency provides information about the regulation of medicines for children in Europe
The US Food and Drug Administration Office of Pediatric Therapeutics provides similar information for the US
The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also provides information on why medicines need to be tested in children
The UK Medicines for Children Research Network aims to facilitate the conduct of clinical trials of medicines for children
The James Lind Alliance has been established in the UK to increase patient involvement in medical research issues such as outcome selection in clinical trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050096
PMCID: PMC2346505  PMID: 18447577
21.  Cholinesterase Inhibitors in Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review of Randomised Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(11):e338.
Background
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to a transitional zone between normal ageing and dementia. Despite the uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI as a clinical entity, clinical trials have been conducted in the attempt to study the role of cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) currently approved for symptomatic treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer disease (AD), in preventing progression from MCI to AD. The objective of this review is to assess the effects of ChEIs (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) in delaying the conversion from MCI to Alzheimer disease or dementia.
Methods and Findings
The terms “donepezil”, “rivastigmine”, “galantamine”, and “mild cognitive impairment” and their variants, synonyms, and acronyms were used as search terms in four electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, PsycINFO) and three registers: the Cochrane Collaboration Trial Register, Current Controlled Trials, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Published and unpublished studies were included if they were randomized clinical trials published (or described) in English and conducted among persons who had received a diagnosis of MCI and/or abnormal memory function documented by a neuropsychological assessment. A standardized data extraction form was used. The reporting quality was assessed using the Jadad scale. Three published and five unpublished trials met the inclusion criteria (three on donepezil, two on rivastigmine, and three on galantamine). Enrolment criteria differed among the trials, so the study populations were not homogeneous. The duration of the trials ranged from 24 wk to 3 y. No significant differences emerged in the probability of conversion from MCI to AD or dementia between the treated groups and the placebo groups. The rate of conversion ranged from 13% (over 2 y) to 25% (over 3 y) among treated patients, and from 18% (over 2 y) to 28% (over 3 y) among those in the placebo groups. Only for two studies was it possible to derive point estimates of the relative risk of conversion: 0.85 (95% confidence interval 0.64–1.12), and 0.84 (0.57–1.25). Statistically significant differences emerged for three secondary end points. However, when adjusting for multiple comparisons, only one difference remained significant (i.e., the rate of atrophy in the whole brain).
Conclusions
The use of ChEIs in MCI was not associated with any delay in the onset of AD or dementia. Moreover, the safety profile showed that the risks associated with ChEIs are not negligible. The uncertainty regarding MCI as a clinical entity raises the question as to the scientific validity of these trials.
A systematic review of trials of cholinesterase inhibitors for preventing transition of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia, conducted by Roberto Raschetti and colleagues, found no difference between treatment and control groups and concluded that uncertainty regarding the definition of MCI casts doubts on the validity of such trials.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Worldwide, more than 24 million people have dementia, a group of brain disorders characterized by an irreversible decline in memory, problem solving, communication, and other “cognitive” functions. The commonest form of dementia is Alzheimer disease (AD). The risk of developing AD increases with age—AD is rare in people younger than 65 but about half of people over 85 years old have it. The earliest symptom of AD is usually difficulty in remembering new information. As the disease progresses, patients may become confused and have problems expressing themselves. Their behavior and personality can also change. In advanced AD, patients need help with daily activities like dressing and eating, and eventually lose their ability to recognize relatives and to communicate. There is no cure for AD but a class of drugs called “cholinesterase inhibitors” can sometimes temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms. Three cholinesterase inhibitors—donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine—are currently approved for use in mild-to-moderate AD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts have questioned the efficacy of cholinesterase inhibitors in AD, but other experts and patient support groups have called for these drugs to be given to patients with a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as well as to those with mild AD. People with MCI have memory problems that are more severe than those normally seen in people of their age but no other symptoms of dementia. They are thought to have an increased risk of developing AD, but it is not known whether everyone with MCI eventually develops AD, and there is no standardized way to diagnose MCI. Despite these uncertainties, several clinical trials have investigated whether cholinesterase inhibitors prevent progression from MCI to AD. In this study, the researchers have assessed whether the results of these trials provide any evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors can prevent MCI progressing to AD.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review of the medical literature to find trials that had addressed this issue, which met criteria that they had defined clearly in advance of their search. They identified three published and five unpublished randomized controlled trials (studies in which patients randomly receive the test drug or an inactive placebo) that investigated the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the progression of MCI. The researchers obtained the results of six of these trials—four examined the effect of cholinesterase inhibitors on the conversion of MCI to clinically diagnosed AD or dementia (the primary end point); all six examined the effect of the drugs on several secondary end points (for example, individual aspects of cognitive function). None of the drugs produced a statistically significant difference (a difference that is unlikely to have happened by chance) in the probability of progression from MCI to AD. The only statistically significant secondary end point after adjustment for multiple comparisons (when many outcomes are considered, false positive results can occur unless specific mathematical techniques are used to prevent this problem) was a decrease in the rate of brain shrinkage associated with galantamine treatment. More patients treated with cholinesterase inhibitors dropped out of trials because of adverse effects than patients given placebo. Finally, in the one trial that reported all causes of deaths, one participant who received placebo and six who received galantamine died.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the use of cholinesterase inhibitors is not associated with any delay in the onset of clinically diagnosed AD or dementia in people with MCI. They also show that the use of these drugs has no effect on most surrogate (substitute) indicators of AD but that the risks associated with their use are not negligible. However, because MCI has not yet been clearly defined as a clinical condition that precedes dementia, some (even many) of the patients enrolled into the trials that the researchers assessed may not actually have had MCI. Thus, further clinical trials are needed to clarify whether cholinesterase inhibitors can delay the progression of MCI to dementia, but these additional trials should not be done until the diagnosis of MCI has been standardized.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338.
An essay by Matthews and colleagues, in the October 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, discusses how mild cognitive impairment is currently diagnosed
The US Alzheimer's Association provides information about all aspects of Alzheimer disease, including fact sheets on treatments for Alzheimer disease and on mild cognitive impairment
The UK Alzheimer's Society provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of dementia, including drug treatments and mild cognitive impairment
The UK charity DIPEx provides short video clips of personal experiences of care givers of people with dementia
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040338
PMCID: PMC2082649  PMID: 18044984
22.  Microbicide research in developing countries: have we given the ethical concerns due consideration? 
BMC Medical Ethics  2007;8:10.
Background
HIV prevention research has been fraught with ethical concerns since its inception. These concerns were highlighted during HIV vaccine research and have been elaborated in microbicide research. A host of unique ethical concerns pervade the microbicide research process from trial design to post-trial microbicide availability. Given the urgency of research and development in the face of the devastating HIV pandemic, these ethical concerns represent an enormous challenge for investigators, sponsors and Research Ethics Committees (RECs) both locally and internationally.
Discussion
Ethical concerns relating to safety in microbicide research are a major international concern. However, in the urgency to develop a medically efficacious microbicide, some of these concerns may not have been anticipated. In the risk-benefit assessment of research protocols, both medical and psycho-social risk must be considered. In this paper four main areas that have a potential for medical and/or psycho-social harm are examined. Male partner involvement is controversial in the setting of covert use of microbicides. However, given the long-term exposure of men to experimental products, this may be methodologically, ethically and legally important. Covert use of microbicides may impact negatively on relationship dynamics leading to psychosocial harm to varying extents. The unexpectedly high rates of pregnancy during clinical trials raise important methodological and ethical concerns. Enrollment of adolescents without parental consent generates ethical and legal concerns that must be carefully considered by RECs and trial sites. Finally, paradoxical outcomes in recent trials internationally have advanced the debate on the nature of informed consent and responsibility of researchers to participants who become HIV positive during or after trials.
Summary
Phase 3 microbicide trials are an undisputed research and ethical priority in developing countries. However, such trials must be conducted with attention to both methodological and ethical detail. It is imperative that guidelines are formulated to ensure that high ethical standards are maintained despite the scientific urgency of microbicide development. Given the controversy raised by emergent ethical issues during the course of microbicide development, it is important that international consensus is reached amongst the various ethics and regulatory agencies in developing and developed countries alike.
doi:10.1186/1472-6939-8-10
PMCID: PMC2082018  PMID: 17877834
23.  Bureaucracy stifles medical research in Britain: a tale of three trials 
Background
Recent developments aiming to standardise and streamline processes of gaining the necessary approvals to carry out research in the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (UK), have resulted in lengthy and costly delays. The national UK governmental Department of Health’s Research Governance Framework (RGF) for Health and Social Care requires that appropriate checks be conducted before research involving human participants, their organs, tissues or data can commence in the NHS. As a result, medical research has been subjected to increased regulation and governance, with the requirement for approvals from numerous regulatory and monitoring bodies. In addition, the processes and outcomes of the attribution of costs in NHS research have caused additional difficulties for researchers. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate, through three trial case studies, the difficulties encountered during the set-up and recruitment phases of these trials, related to gaining the necessary ethical and governance approvals and applying for NHS costs to undertake and deliver the research.
Methods
Empirical evidence about delays and difficulties related to regulation and governance of medical research was gathered during the period 2009–2010 from three UK randomised controlled trials with sites in England, Wales and Scotland (1. SAFER 2- an emergency care based trial of a protocol for paramedics to refer patients directly to community based falls services; 2. COnStRUCT- a trial of two drugs for acute ulcerative colitis; and 3. Family Links - a trial of a public health intervention, a 10 week community based parenting programme). Findings and recommendations were reported in response to a call for evidence from The Academy of Medical Sciences regarding difficulties encountered in conducting medical research arising from R&D governance and regulation, to inform national policy.
Results
Difficulties and delays in navigating and gaining the appropriate approvals and NHS costs required to undertake the research were encountered in all three trials, at various points in the bureaucratic processes of ethical and research and information governance approvals. Conduct of each of the three trials was delayed by at least 12 months, with costs increasing by 30 – 40%.
Conclusions
Whilst the three trials encountered a variety of challenges, there were common issues. The processes for gaining approvals were overly complex and differed between sites and UK countries; guidance about processes was unclear; and information regarding how to define and claim NHS costs for undertaking the research was inconsistent. The competitive advantage of a publicly funded, open access health system for undertaking health services research and clinical trials within the UK has been outweighed in recent years by stifling bureaucratic structures and processes for governance of research. The recommendations of the Academy of Medical Sciences are welcomed, and the effects of their implementation are awaited with interest.
Trial Registration numbers
SAFER 2: ISRCTN 60481756; COnStRUCT: ISRCTN22663589; Family Links: ISRCTN 13929732
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-12-122
PMCID: PMC3537588  PMID: 22898336
24.  Prehospital evaluation and economic analysis of different coronary syndrome treatment strategies - PREDICT - Rationale, Development and Implementation 
Background
A standard of prehospital care for patients presenting with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) includes prehospital 12-lead and advance Emergency Department notification or prehospital bypass to percutaneous coronary intervention centres. Implementation of either care strategies is variable across communities and neither may exist in some communities. The main objective is to compare prehospital care strategies for time to treatment and survival outcomes as well as cost effectiveness.
Methods/Design
PREDICT is a multicentre, prospective population-based cohort study of all chest pain patients 18 years or older presenting within 30 mins to 6 hours of symptom onset and treated with nitroglycerin, transported by paramedics in a number of different urban and rural regions in Ontario. The primary objective of this study is to compare the proportion of study subjects who receive reperfusion within the target door-to-reperfusion times in subjects obtained after four prehospital strategies: 12-lead ECG and advance emergency department (ED) notification or 3-lead ECG monitoring and alert to dispatch prior to hospital arrival; either with or without the opportunity to bypass to a PCI centre.
Discussion
We anticipate four challenges to successful study implementation and have developed strategies for each: 1) diversity in the interpretation of the ethical and privacy issues across 47 research ethics boards/commiittees covering 71 hospitals, 2) remote oversight of data guardian abstraction, 3) timeliness of implementation, and 4) potential interference in the study by concurrent technological advances. Research ethics approvals from academic centres were obtained initially and submitted to non academic centre applications. Data guardians were trained by a single investigator and data entry is informed by a detailed data dictionary including variable definitions and abstraction instrucations and subjected to error and logic checks. Quality oversight provided by a single investigator. The window of the trial in each community has been confirmed with the basehospital medical director to correspond to the planned technological advances of the system of care. We hope this comparative analysis across treatment strategies for clinical outcomes and cost will provide sufficient evidence to implement the superior strategy across all communities and improve outcomes for all STEMI patients.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00747656
doi:10.1186/1471-227X-11-4
PMCID: PMC3076236  PMID: 21447161
25.  Vitamin A and fish oils for retinitis pigmentosa 
Background
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) comprises a group of hereditary eye diseases characterized by progressive degeneration of retinal photoreceptors. It results in severe visual loss that may lead to legal blindness. Symptoms may become manifest during childhood or adulthood, and include poor night vision (nyctalopia) and constriction of peripheral vision (visual field loss). This field loss is progressive and usually does not reduce central vision until late in the disease course. The worldwide prevalence of RP is one in 4000, with 100,000 patients affected in the USA. At this time, there is no proven therapy for RP.
Objectives
The objective of this review was to synthesize the best available evidence regarding the effectiveness and safety of vitamin A and fish oils (docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) in preventing the progression of RP.
Search methods
We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (2013, Issue 7),Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily, Ovid OLDMEDLINE (January 1946 to August 2013), EMBASE (January 1980 to August 2013), Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature Database (LILACS) (January 1982 to August 2013), the meta Register of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (www.controlled-trials.com), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en).We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 20 August 2013.
Selection criteria
We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the effectiveness of vitamin A, fish oils (DHA) or both, as a treatment for RP. We excluded cluster-randomized trials and cross-over trials.
Data collection and analysis
We pre-specified the following outcomes: mean change from baseline visual field, mean change from baseline electroretinogram (ERG) amplitudes, and anatomic changes as measured by optical coherence tomography (OCT), at one year; as well as mean change in visual acuity at five-year follow-up. Two authors independently evaluated risk of bias for all included trials and extracted data from the publications. We also contacted study investigators for further information on trials with publications that did not report outcomes on all randomized patients.
Main results
We reviewed 394 titles and abstracts and nine ClinicalTrials.gov records and included three RCTs that met our eligibility criteria. The three trials included a total of 866 participants aged four to 55 years with RP of all forms of genetic predisposition. One trial evaluated the effect of vitamin A alone, one trial evaluated DHA alone, and a third trial evaluated DHA and vitamin A versus vitamin A alone. None of the RCTs had protocols available, so selective reporting bias was unclear for all. In addition, one trial did not specify the method for random sequence generation, so there was an unclear risk of bias. All three trials were graded as low risk of bias for all other domains. We did not perform meta-analysis due to clinical heterogeneity of participants and interventions across the included trials.
The primary outcome, mean change of visual field from baseline at one year, was not reported in any of the studies. No toxicity or adverse events were reported in these three trials. No trial reported a statistically significant benefit of vitamin supplementation on the progression of visual field loss or visual acuity loss. Two of the three trials reported statistically significant differences in ERG amplitudes among some subgroups of participants, but these results have not been replicated or substantiated by findings in any of the other trials.
Authors’ conclusions
Based on the results of three RCTs, there is no clear evidence for benefit of treatment with vitamin A and/or DHA for people with RP, in terms of the mean change in visual field and ERG amplitudes at one year and the mean change in visual acuity at five years follow-up. In future RCTs, since some of the studies in this review included unplanned subgroup analysis that suggested differential effects based on previous vitamin A exposure, investigators should consider examining this issue. Future trials should take into account the changes observed in ERG amplitudes and other outcome measures from trials included in this review, in addition to previous cohort studies, when calculating sample sizes to assure adequate power to detect clinically and statistically meaningful difference between treatment arms.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008428.pub2
PMCID: PMC4259575  PMID: 24357340

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