The FDA is conducting a public workshop on Monday, March 19, to obtain input from stakeholders—including patients, patient advocates, academic and medical researchers, expert practitioners, drug developers, and other interested persons—to inform the drafting of a patient-focused drug development guidance as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. Workshop attendees will discuss considerations for development and submission of a proposed draft guidance regarding patient experience data submitted by an external stakeholder. The guidance is intended to help stakeholders continue progress in developing new medicines to respond to patient’s needs.
The groundbreaking “All of Us” research program, which aims to enroll and track more than a million people, is asking prospective researchers, community organizations, and citizen scientists for suggestions regarding potential research questions. Ideas can be submitted through a special research page and are due by February 23, 2018. At a Research Priorities Workshop in March 2018, meeting attendees will use the input to set research priorities that will drive the development of the All of Us research platform and associated tools.
At the NIH Collaboratory Steering Committee meeting in May 2017, we asked Ellen Tambor, a member of the Stakeholder Engagement Core, to reflect on the first 5 years of the Core’s work and the challenges ahead. She says it’s key for stakeholder engagement to take place throughout the entire healthcare system, from leadership to the frontline providers and staff. And, because of the nature of pragmatic trials conducted in clinical settings, engagement is essential from the early stages through trial completion. Tambor also suggests asking two questions to ensure the right people are involved throughout pragmatic research: Who is going to use the evidence that results from the study? Who will help ensure that the study is implemented as seamlessly as possible?
“Pragmatic trials take stakeholder engagement to a new level of importance in terms of both the scope of engagement and the array of potential stakeholders.” Ellen Tambor
A new research project modeled on the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory has been created to investigate non-drug approaches to helping U.S. service members and veterans manage chronic pain. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) jointly announced the NIH-DoD-VA Pain Management Collaboratory project this week. The project, which includes funding for 12 demonstration projects over the next 6 years, will focus on large-scale, cost-effective, pragmatic trials conducted in military and VA healthcare systems.
The Pain Management Collaboratory Coordinating Center (PMC3) at Yale University will establish work groups to assist demonstration projects and provide support similar to that offered by NIH Collaboratory Core groups. A team from Duke Clinical Research Institute is leading one of the demonstration projects, a trial designed to improve access to recommended non-drug therapies for low back pain in the VA Health Care System.
As part of their ongoing effort to improve the speed and efficiency of conducting clinical trials, the NIH-FDA Joint Leadership Council has created a draft clinical trial protocol template. The template contains instructional and sample text intended to assist NIH-funded investigators in writing protocols for phase 2 or 3 clinical trials that require Investigational New Drug (IND) or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) applications. Feedback is sought from investigators, investigator-sponsors, institutional review board members, and other stakeholders involved in protocol development and review.
Our goal is to provide an organized way for creative investigators to describe their plans so that others can understand them. – Dr. Pamela McInnes, NIH
Details on the rationale and development of the protocol template are on these blog posts:
Notice Number: NOT-OD-16-043. Responses accepted through April 17, 2016. You can access the template document as well as a template shell, comment form, and other resources at NIH’s Clinical Research Policy website.
The Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) has released its Annual Report for 2015. The report describes major achievements from the previous year, including new recommendations and related tools and checklists for improving the safety, efficiency, and overall quality of clinical research.
Highlights of the 2015 Annual Report include recommendations on topics including:
- Ethics review processes
- Good Clinical Practice training for trial investigators
- Research protocol design
- Engagement of patient groups as equal partners in clinical research
- Informed consent processes
- Safety reporting systems for research participants
A public-private partnership whose many stakeholders include government agencies, advocacy groups, professional societies, academic research organizations, and representatives from the medical products industry, CTTI’s mission is to “identify and promote practices that will increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials.”
The Active Bathing to Eliminate (ABATE) Infection trial (ClinicalTrials.gov #NCT02063867) has completed its intervention phase—the first NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory UH3 Demonstration Project to reach this major milestone. The large-scale, cluster-randomized pragmatic clinical trial (PCT) was designed to assess an approach for reducing multidrug-resistant organisms and hospital-associated infections (HAIs) in nearly 200 non-critical care hospital units affiliated with Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) across the United States.
The ABATE study is led by principal investigator Dr. Susan Huang of the University of California, Irvine, who stated “We are elated to reach the successful completion of the trial thanks to an incredible investigative team at HCA, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Rush University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and UC Irvine. We look forward to what the trial data will tell us and hope that we can continue to find effective ways to protect patients from infection.”
In the ABATE study, patients hospitalized in non-critical care units were bathed either according to the hospital unit’s usual care procedures (the control group) or bathed with the topical antibacterial agent chlorhexidine (plus nasal administration of the antibiotic mupirocin for those patients who were colonized or infected with, or had a history of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] [the intervention group]). The study investigators will compare the number of unit-attributable, multidrug-resistant organisms in clinical cultures between the study arms; these organisms include vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), MRSA, and gram-negative bacteria. In addition, the investigators will compare the number of unit-attributable infections in the bloodstream and urinary tract (all pathogens) and Clostridium difficile infections. Cultures were collected at baseline and post intervention and will be assessed to determine whether resistance emerged to decolonization products.
“We are elated to reach the successful completion of the trial thanks to an incredible investigative team at HCA, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Rush University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and UC Irvine.We look forward to what the trial data will tell us and hope that we can continue to find effective ways to protect patients from infection.”
Healthcare-associated infections caused by common bacteria, including MRSA and VRE, are a leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States and are associated with upward of $6.5 billion in annual healthcare costs. Although these bacteria normally live on the skin or in the nose, under certain circumstances they can cause serious or even life-threatening infections. Hospitalized patients who are ill or who have weakened immune systems are especially at risk for such infections. Because these pathogens are resistant to many antibiotics, they can be difficult to treat.
In intensive care units (ICUs), reducing the amount of such bacteria (a process referred to as decolonization) by treating patients’ skin with chlorhexidine and their noses with mupirocin ointment has been shown to reduce MRSA infections and all-cause bacteremias. However, relatively little is known about the effects of decolonization in hospital settings outside of critical care units, although this is where the majority of such infections occur. The ABATE trial, in contrast, is testing its bathing and decolonization strategy in adult medical, surgical, oncology, and step-down units (pediatric, psychology, peri-partum, and bone marrow transplantation units were excluded).
Over the course of the study, more than a million showers and baths were taken, and all sites have completed the intervention. The next steps for the ABATE investigators are to finish strain collection over the coming weeks, and then clean, validate, and analyze the data over the coming months.
Resources: NIH Health Care Systems Collaboratory Demonstration Project. Active Bathing to Eliminate (ABATE) Infection trial. 2014. Available at: https://www.nihcollaboratory.org/demonstration-projects/Pages/ABATE.aspx. Accessed February 2, 2015. Huang SS, Septimus E, Moody J, et al. Randomized Evaluation of Decolonization vs. Universal Clearance to Eliminate Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus in ICUs (REDUCE MRSA Trial). 2012. Available at: https://idsa.confex.com/idsa/2012/webprogram/Paper36049.html. Accessed December 15, 1024. Huang SS, Septimus E, Kleinman K, et al. Targeted versus universal decolonization to prevent ICU infection. N Engl J Med 2013;368:2255–2265. PMID: 23718152. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1207290.
The American Journal of Bioethics has recently published three articles authored by members of the Regulatory/Ethics core group describing various questions related to research on medical practices:
- Is shared decision making an appropriate analytic frame for research on medical practices (Sugarman 2015) discusses the role of shared decision making (SDM) in research on medical practices. The author cautions that “while SDM is in many ways similar to informed consent, there are some important differences, especially in the research setting.” This publication is freely accessible through PubMed Central.
- Patients’ views concerning research on medical practices: implications for consent (Weinfurt et al. 2015) describes the results of focus group sessions that elicited a range of patients’ views and opinions about different types of research on usual medical practices. The authors state that “our data suggest that effective policy and guidance will involve balancing different patients’ interests and potentially different sets of interests for different types of research studies on usual medical practices.”
- Ethics of research in usual care settings: data on point (Sugarman 2016) introduces a special five-article supplement in the American Journal of Bioethics, stating that the “growing empirical ethics literature regarding research in usual care settings provides data to inform conceptual and policy debates regarding this research and suggests areas that require further study.”
These publications were supported by a bioethics supplement awarded to the Regulatory/Ethics Core group by the NIH’s Office of the Director.
A new article published in the journal Trials provides a look at how the Pragmatic–Explanatory Continuum Indicator Summary, or PRECIS, rating system can be applied to clinical trials designs in order to examine where a given study sits on the spectrum of explanatory versus pragmatic clinical trials.
The PRECIS-2 criteria are used to rate study designs as more or less “pragmatic” according to multiple domains that include participant eligibility, recruitment methods, setting, organization, analysis methods, primary outcomes, and more. In this context, “pragmatic” refers to trials that are designed to study a therapy or intervention in a “real world” setting similar or identical to the one in which the therapy will actually be used. Pragmatic trials stand in contrast to explanatory trials, which are typically designed to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of an intervention under highly controlled conditions and in carefully selected groups of participants, but which may also be difficult to generalize to larger or more varied populations.
Clinical trials are almost never wholly “explanatory” or wholly “pragmatic.” Instead, many studies exist somewhere on a spectrum between these two categories. However, understanding how these different attributes apply to trials can help researchers design studies that are optimally fit for purpose, whether that purpose is to describe a biological mechanism (as in an explanatory trial) or to show how effective an intervention is when used across a broad population of patients (as in a pragmatic trial).
In their article in Trials, authors Karin Johnson, Gila Neta, and colleagues applied PRECIS-2 criteria to 5 pragmatic clinical trials (PCTs) being conducted through the NIH Collaboratory. Each trial was found to rate as “highly pragmatic” across the multiple PRECIS-2 domains, highlighting the tool’s potential usefulness in guiding decisions about study design, but also revealing a number of challenges in applying it and interpreting the results.
Study authors Johnson and Neta will be discussing their findings during the NIH Collaboratory’s Grand Rounds on Friday, January 22, 2016 (an archived version of the presentation will be available the following week).
Johnson KE, Neta G, Dember LM, Coronado GD, Suls J, Chambers DA, Rundell S, Smith DH, Liu B, Taplin S, Stoney CM, Farrell MM, Glasgow RE. Use of PRECIS ratings in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory. Trials. 2016;17(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s13063-016-1158-y. PMID: 26772801. PMCID: PMC4715340.
You can read more about the NIH Collaboratory PCTs featured as part of this project at the following links: ABATE (Active Bathing to Eliminate Infection) LIRE (A pragmatic trial of Lumbar Image Reporting with Epidemiology) PPACT (Collaborative Care for Chronic Pain in Primary Care) STOP-CRC (Strategies & Opportunities to Stop Colon Cancer in Priority Populations) TIME (Time to Reduce Mortality in End-Stage Renal Disease)
Additional Resources An introductory slide set on PCTs (by study author Karin Johnson) is available from the Living Textbook: Introduction to Pragmatic Clinical Trials The University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus publishes an electronic textbook on pragmatic trials: Pragmatic Trials: A workshop Handbook
Drs. Beverly Green and Gloria Coronado and colleagues have published an article in Clinical Trials describing the challenges of recruiting participants into large, multisite pragmatic clinical trials—particularly at the health system level. STOP CRC is one of the NIH Collaboratory’s pragmatic clinical trial Demonstration Projects, which are intended to provide a framework of implementation methods and best practices to enable participation of varied health care systems in clinical research.
STOP CRC is testing a culturally tailored, health care system–based program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a community-based collaborative network of federally qualified health centers. The authors observed that recruiting sites to participate in pragmatic trials is time-intensive and involves both preparing materials and organizing face-to-face meetings with staff and clinic leaders. Yet little is known about the characteristics of nonparticipating sites and clinic-level factors that may influence willingness to participate in a pragmatic trial.
“Our findings underscore the importance of assessing and reporting recruitment success at the organizational and/or clinic level in order to know the external validity of the findings and may inform future efforts to select and recruit health systems to participate in pragmatic research.” (Coronado, et al. Clin Trials 2015)