Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Volume 110, Issue 2 Pages: 263-518 August 2021
Collaborative Platform Trials to Fight COVID-19: Methodological and Regulatory Considerations for a Better Societal Outcome
Olivier Collignon, Carl-Fredrik Burman, Martin Posch, Anja Schiel
First Published:28 January 2021
For the development of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) drugs during the ongoing pandemic, speed is of essence whereas quality of evidence is of paramount importance. Although thousands of COVID-19 trials were rapidly started, many are unlikely to provide robust statistical evidence and meet regulatory standards (e.g., because of lack of randomization or insufficient power). This has led to an inefficient use of time and resources. With more coordination, the sheer number of patients in these trials might have generated convincing data for several investigational treatments. Collaborative platform trials, comparing several drugs to a shared control arm, are an attractive solution. Those trials can utilize a variety of adaptive design features in order to accelerate the finding of life-saving treatments. In this paper, we discuss several possible designs, illustrate them via simulations, and also discuss challenges, such as the heterogeneity of the target population, time-varying standard of care, and the potentially high number of false hypothesis rejections in phase II and phase III trials. We provide corresponding regulatory perspectives on approval and reimbursement, and note that the optimal design of a platform trial will differ with our societal objective and by stakeholder. Hasty approvals may delay the development of better alternatives, whereas searching relentlessly for the single most efficacious treatment may indirectly diminish the number of lives saved as time is lost. We point out the need for incentivizing developers to participate in collaborative evidence-generation initiatives when a positive return on investment is not met.