Contemporary Clinical Trials
Volume 97 October 2020
Research article Full text access
Selecting appropriate endpoints for assessing treatment effects in comparative clinical studies for COVID-19
Zachary R. McCaw, Lu Tian, Kevin N. Sheth, Wan-Ting Hsu, … Lee-Jen Wei
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of a new treatment for COVID-19 vs. standard care, certain key endpoints are related to the duration of a specific event, such as hospitalization, ICU stay, or receipt of supplemental oxygen. However, since patients may die in the hospital during study follow-up, using, for example, the duration of hospitalization to assess treatment efficacy can be misleading. If the treatment tends to prolong patients’ survival compared with standard care, patients in the new treatment group may spend more time in hospital. This can lead to a “survival bias” issue, where a treatment that is effective for preventing death appears to prolong an undesirable outcome. On the other hand, by using hospital-free survival time as the endpoint, we can circumvent the survival bias issue. In this article, we use reconstructed data from a recent, large clinical trial for COVID-19 to illustrate the advantages of this approach. For the analysis of ICU stay or oxygen usage, where the initiating event is potentially an outcome of treatment, standard survival analysis techniques may not be appropriate. We also discuss issues with analyzing the durations of such events.