Attitudes and opinions regarding confirmatory adaptive clinical trials: A mixed methods analysis from the Adaptive Designs Accelerating Promising Trials into Treatments (ADAPT-IT) project

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Abstract

Background: Adaptive designs have been increasingly used in the pharmaceutical and device industries, but adoption within the academic setting has been less widespread - particularly for confirmatory phase trials. We sought to understand perceptions about understanding, acceptability, and scientific validity of adaptive clinical trials (ACTs). Methods: We used a convergent mixed methods design using survey and mini-focus group data collection procedures to elucidate attitudes and opinions among "trial community" stakeholders regarding understanding, acceptability, efficiency, scientific validity, and speed of discovery with adaptive designs. Data were collected about various aspects of ACTs using self-administered surveys (paper or Web-based) with visual analog scales (VASs) with free text responses and with mini-focus groups of key stakeholders. Participants were recruited as part of an ongoing NIH/FDA-funded research project exploring the incorporation of ACTs into an existing NIH network that focuses on confirmatory phase clinical trials in neurological emergencies. "Trial community" representatives, namely, clinical investigators, biostatisticians, NIH officials, and FDA scientists involved in the planning of four clinical trials, were eligible to participate. In addition, recent and current members of a clinical trial-oriented NIH study section were also eligible. Results: A total of 76 stakeholders completed the survey (out of 91 who were offered it, response rate 84 %). While the VAS attitudinal data showed substantial variability across respondents about acceptability and understanding of ACTs by various constituencies, respondents perceived clinicians to be less likely to understand ACTs and that ACTs probably would increase the efficiency of discovery. Textual and focus group responses emerged into several themes that enhanced understanding of VAS attitudinal data including the following: acceptability of adaptive designs depends on constituency and situation; there is variable understanding of ACTs (limited among clinicians, perceived to be higher at FDA); views about the potential for efficiency depend on the situation and implementation. Participants also frequently mentioned a need for greater education within the academic community. Finally, the empiric, non-quantitative selection of treatments for phase III trials based on limited phase II trials was highlighted as an opportunity for improvement and a potential explanation for the high number of neutral confirmatory trials. Conclusions: These data show considerable variations in attitudes and beliefs about ACTs among trial community representatives. For adaptive trials to be fully considered when appropriate and for the research enterprise to realize the full potential of adaptive designs will likely require extensive experience and trust building within the trial community.

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Meurer, W. J., Legocki, L., Mawocha, S., Frederiksen, S. M., Guetterman, T. C., Barsan, W., … Fetters, M. (2016). Attitudes and opinions regarding confirmatory adaptive clinical trials: A mixed methods analysis from the Adaptive Designs Accelerating Promising Trials into Treatments (ADAPT-IT) project. Trials, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-016-1493-z

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