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Suggestions for improving the design of clinical trials in multiple sclerosis - results of a systematic analysis of completed phase III trials

Authors

  • S. Gehr
  • T. Kaiser
  • R. Kreutz
  • W.D. Ludwig
  • F. Paul

Journal

  • EPMA Journal

Citation

  • EPMA J 10 (4): 425-436

Abstract

  • This manuscript reviews the primary and secondary endpoints of pivotal phase III trials with immunomodulatory drugs in multiple sclerosis (MS). Considering the limitations of previous trial designs, we propose new standards for the planning of clinical trials, taking into account latest insights into MS pathophysiology and patient-relevant aspects. Using a systematic overview of published phase III (pivotal) trials performed as part of application for drug market approval, we evaluate the following characteristics: trial duration, number of trial participants, comparators, and endpoints (primary, secondary, magnetic resonance imaging outcome, and patient-reported outcomes). From a patient perspective, the primary and secondary endpoints of clinical trials are only partially relevant. High-quality trial data pertaining to efficacy and safety that stretch beyond the time frame of pivotal trials are almost non-existent. Understanding of long-term benefits and risks of disease-modifying MS therapy is largely lacking. Concrete proposals for the trial designs of relapsing (remitting) multiple sclerosis/clinically isolated syndrome, primary progressive multiple sclerosis, and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (e.g., study duration, mechanism of action, and choice of endpoints) are presented based on the results of the systematic overview. Given the increasing number of available immunotherapies, the therapeutic strategy in MS has shifted from a mere "relapse-prevention" approach to a personalized provision of medical care as to the choice of the appropriate drugs and their sequential application over the course of the disease. This personalized provision takes patient preferences as well as disease-related factors into consideration such as objective clinical and radiographic findings but also very burdensome symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and cognitive impairment. Future trial designs in MS will have to assign higher relevance to these patient-reported outcomes and will also have to implement surrogate measures that can serve as predictive markers for individual treatment response to new and investigational immunotherapies. This is an indispensable prerequisite to maximize the benefit of individual patients when participating in clinical trials. Moreover, such appropriate trial designs and suitable enrolment criteria that correspond to the mode of action of the study drug will facilitate targeted prevention of adverse events, thus mitigating risks for individual study participants.


DOI

doi:10.1007/s13167-019-00192-z