GOST: A generic ordinal sequential trial design for a treatment trial in an emerging pandemic

PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
http://www.plosntds.org/
(Accessed 11 March 2017)

Research Article
GOST: A generic ordinal sequential trial design for a treatment trial in an emerging pandemic
John Whitehead, Peter Horby
| published 09 Mar 2017 P
http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005439
This is an uncorrected proof.
Abstract
Background
Conducting clinical trials to assess experimental treatments for potentially pandemic infectious diseases is challenging. Since many outbreaks of infectious diseases last only six to eight weeks, there is a need for trial designs that can be implemented rapidly in the face of uncertainty. Outbreaks are sudden and unpredictable and so it is essential that as much planning as possible takes place in advance. Statistical aspects of such trial designs should be evaluated and discussed in readiness for implementation.
Methodology/Principal findings
This paper proposes a generic ordinal sequential trial design (GOST) for a randomised clinical trial comparing an experimental treatment for an emerging infectious disease with standard care. The design is intended as an off-the-shelf, ready-to-use robust and flexible option. The primary endpoint is a categorisation of patient outcome according to an ordinal scale. A sequential approach is adopted, stopping as soon as it is clear that the experimental treatment has an advantage or that sufficient advantage is unlikely to be detected. The properties of the design are evaluated using large-sample theory and verified for moderate sized samples using simulation. The trial is powered to detect a generic clinically relevant difference: namely an odds ratio of 2 for better rather than worse outcomes. Total sample sizes (across both treatments) of between 150 and 300 patients prove to be adequate in many cases, but the precise value depends on both the magnitude of the treatment advantage and the nature of the ordinal scale. An advantage of the approach is that any erroneous assumptions made at the design stage about the proportion of patients falling into each outcome category have little effect on the error probabilities of the study, although they can lead to inaccurate forecasts of sample size.
Conclusions/Significance
It is important and feasible to pre-determine many of the statistical aspects of an efficient trial design in advance of a disease outbreak. The design can then be tailored to the specific disease under study once its nature is better understood.
Author summary
Since many outbreaks of infectious diseases last only six to eight weeks, there is a need for trial designs that can be implemented rapidly in the face of uncertainty. The Generic Ordinal Sequential Trial (GOST) is a flexible statistical design for a randomised clinical trial comparing an experimental treatment for an emerging infectious disease with standard care. The details of the design are derived to satisfy a generic power requirement using large sample theory. The accuracy of the approach for moderate sample sizes is then checked using million-fold simulations, and found to be very reliable under a wide range of circumstances. Total sample sizes (across both treatments) of between 150 and 300 patients prove to be adequate in many cases, although more patients may be needed if the majority of patients die or if the majority experience complete recovery, as there is then less evidence available to distinguish between treatments. An advantage of the approach is that any erroneous assumptions made at the design stage about the proportion of patients falling into each outcome category have little effect on the error probabilities of the study, although they can lead to inaccurate forecasts of sample size.