Comparison of time-to-first event and recurrent event methods in randomized clinical trials

Claggett, B., Pocock, S., Wei, L.J., Pfeffer, M. A., McMurray, J. J.V. and Solomon, S. D. (2018) Comparison of time-to-first event and recurrent event methods in randomized clinical trials. Circulation, 138(6), pp. 570-577. (doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.033065) (PMID:29588314)

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-Most Phase-3 trials feature time-to-first event endpoints for their primary and/or secondary analyses. In chronic diseases where a clinical event can occur more than once, recurrent-event methods have been proposed to more fully capture disease burden and have been assumed to improve statistical precision and power compared to conventional "time-to-first" methods. -To better characterize factors that influence statistical properties of recurrent-events and time-to-first methods in the evaluation of randomized therapy, we repeatedly simulated trials with 1:1 randomization of 4000 patients to active vs control therapy, with true patient-level risk reduction of 20% (i.e. RR=0.80). For patients who discontinued active therapy after a first event, we assumed their risk reverted subsequently to their original placebo-level risk. Through simulation, we varied a) the degree of between-patient heterogeneity of risk and b) the extent of treatment discontinuation. Findings were compared with those from actual randomized clinical trials. -As the degree of between-patient heterogeneity of risk was increased, both time-to-first and recurrent-events methods lost statistical power to detect a true risk reduction and confidence intervals widened. The recurrent-events analyses continued to estimate the true RR=0.80 as heterogeneity increased, while the Cox model produced estimates that were attenuated. The power of recurrent-events methods declined as the rate of study drug discontinuation post-event increased. Recurrent-events methods provided greater power than time-to-first methods in scenarios where drug discontinuation was ≤30% following a first event, lesser power with drug discontinuation rates of ≥60%, and comparable power otherwise. We confirmed in several actual trials in chronic heart failure that treatment effect estimates were attenuated when estimated via the Cox model and that increased statistical power from recurrent-events methods was most pronounced in trials with lower treatment discontinuation rates. -We find that the statistical power of both recurrent-events and time-to-first methods are reduced by increasing heterogeneity of patient risk, a parameter not included in conventional power and sample size formulas. Data from real clinical trials are consistent with simulation studies, confirming that the greatest statistical gains from use of recurrent-events methods occur in the presence of high patient heterogeneity and low rates of study drug discontinuation.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Clinical trial, cox model, heart failure, recurrent events, statistical methodology, survival analysis.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:McMurray, Professor John
Authors: Claggett, B., Pocock, S., Wei, L.J., Pfeffer, M. A., McMurray, J. J.V., and Solomon, S. D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Health
Journal Name:Circulation
Publisher:American Heart Association
ISSN (Online):1524-4539
Published Online:27 March 2018

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