Data-sharing and re-analysis for main studies assessed by the European Medicines Agency—a cross-sectional study on European Public Assessment Reports

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Abstract

Background: Transparency and reproducibility are expected to be normative practices in clinical trials used for decision-making on marketing authorisations for new medicines. This registered report introduces a cross-sectional study aiming to assess inferential reproducibility for main trials assessed by the European Medicines Agency. Methods: Two researchers independently identified all studies on new medicines, biosimilars and orphan medicines given approval by the European Commission between January 2017 and December 2019, categorised as ‘main studies’ in the European Public Assessment Reports (EPARs). Sixty-two of these studies were randomly sampled. One researcher retrieved the individual patient data (IPD) for these studies and prepared a dossier for each study, containing the IPD, the protocol and information on the conduct of the study. A second researcher who had no access to study reports used the dossier to run an independent re-analysis of each trial. All results of these re-analyses were reported in terms of each study’s conclusions, p-values, effect sizes and changes from the initial protocol. A team of two researchers not involved in the re-analysis compared results of the re-analyses with published results of the trial. Results: Two hundred ninety-two main studies in 173 EPARs were identified. Among the 62 studies randomly sampled, we received IPD for 10 trials. The median number of days between data request and data receipt was 253 [interquartile range 182–469]. For these ten trials, we identified 23 distinct primary outcomes for which the conclusions were reproduced in all re-analyses. Therefore, 10/62 trials (16% [95% confidence interval 8% to 28%]) were reproduced, as the 52 studies without available data were considered non-reproducible. There was no change from the original study protocol regarding the primary outcome in any of these ten studies. Spin was observed in the report of one study. Conclusions: Despite their results supporting decisions that affect millions of people’s health across the European Union, most main studies used in EPARs lack transparency and their results are not reproducible for external researchers. Re-analyses of the few trials with available data showed very good inferential reproducibility. Trial registration: https://osf.io/mcw3t/.

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Siebert, M., Gaba, J., Renault, A., Laviolle, B., Locher, C., Moher, D., & Naudet, F. (2022). Data-sharing and re-analysis for main studies assessed by the European Medicines Agency—a cross-sectional study on European Public Assessment Reports. BMC Medicine, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-022-02377-2

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