September 7, 2018: Spotlight on a New Demonstration Project: HiLo

Kidney transplantation is the preferred treatment for patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), but an insufficient organ supply renders dialysis the only viable treatment option for most patients. Though clinical outcomes among patients receiving dialysis have improved modestly in recent years, annual rates of hospitalization and mortality remain unacceptably high, and quality of life is poor. Poor outcomes are driven primarily by increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), but interventions that improve outcomes in the general population by targeting traditional CVD risk factors have mostly failed in patients with ESRD. Current clinical practice guidelines advocate aggressive treatment of high serum phosphate to near-normal levels using dietary phosphate binders and restrictive diets. The benefits of this approach, however, are unproven, the optimal serum phosphate target remains unknown, and potential harms of aggressive treatment have not been definitively identified.

The Pragmatic Trial of Higher vs. Lower Serum Phosphate Targets in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis (HiLo) plans to address these clinically important questions in a large, pragmatic, cluster-randomized trial that will evaluate the effects of liberalizing the serum phosphate target (“Hi”) versus maintaining aggressive phosphate control (“Lo”) for patients receiving treatment with maintenance hemodialysis.

 “The question at hand is something we grapple with on a daily basis in every dialysis facility across the country. Either answer will be important new information that will help us do a better job taking care of patients and hopefully improve their quality of life.”

HiLo is led by Myles Wolf, MD, of Duke University with support from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Read more about HiLo.

July 23, 2018: New Report Summarizes Patient-Reported Health Data and Metadata Standards in the ADAPTABLE Trial

A new report in the Living Textbook describes results of a literature review of data standards and metadata standards for variables of interest to the ADAPTABLE trial. Based on the review, the authors recommend standards for ADAPTABLE, also known as the Aspirin Study, which is the first major randomized comparative effectiveness trial to be conducted by the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet). The trial aims to identify the optimal dose of aspirin therapy for secondary prevention in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Because the ADAPTABLE trial relies on patients to report key information at baseline and throughout follow-up, it represents a unique opportunity to develop, pilot, and evaluate methods to validate and integrate patient-reported information with data obtained from electronic health records (EHRs). In 2016, the National Institutes of Health implemented a project with the goal of using the ADAPTABLE study to develop methods to (1) assess the quality of patient-reported data and (2) integrate the data with existing EHR data. It is hoped that this project will inform future efforts to synthesize potentially inconsistent data from patient-reported and EHR sources and identify opportunities to streamline data.

Download the report.

June 4, 2018: New Article Explores Misleading Use of the Label “Pragmatic” for Some Randomized Clinical Trials

A recent study published in BMC Medicine found that many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) self-labeled as “pragmatic” were actually explanatory in nature, in that they assessed investigational medicines compared with placebo to test efficacy before licensing. Of the RCTs studied, one-third were pre-licensing, single-center, or placebo-controlled trials and thus not appropriately described as pragmatic.

Appropriately describing the design and characteristics of a pragmatic trial helps readers understand the trial’s relevance for real-world practice. The authors explain that RCTs suitably termed pragmatic compare the effectiveness of 2 available medicines or interventions prescribed in routine clinical care. The purpose of such pragmatic RCTs is to provide real-world evidence for which interventions should be recommended or prioritized.

The authors recommend that investigators use a standard tool, such as the CONSORT Pragmatic Trials extension or the PRECIS-2 tool, to prospectively evaluate the pragmatic characteristics of their RCTs. Use of these tools can also assist funders, ethics committees, and journal editors in determining whether an RCT has been accurately labeled as pragmatic.

The BMC Medicine article cites NIH Collaboratory publications by Ali et al. and Johnson et al., as well as the Living Textbook, in its discussion of pragmatic RCTs and the tools available to assess their relevance for real-world practice.

“Submissions of RCTs to funders, research ethics committees, and peer-reviewed journals should include a PRECIS-2 tool assessment done by the trial investigators. Clarity and accuracy on the extent to which an RCT is pragmatic will help [to] understand how much it is relevant to real-world practice.” (Dal-Ré et al. 2018)

October 11, 2017: New grant awarded to Dr. Jeffrey Jarvik and his team of investigators to promote pragmatic musculoskeletal clinical research

Congratulations to Dr. Jeffrey Jarvik and his colleagues at the University of Washington for their recent grant award to establish the Core Center for Clinical Research (CCCR). The initiative will promote pragmatic, multi-institutional clinical research on musculoskeletal conditions, such as the diagnosis and treatment of back pain. The new center—the UW Center for Clinical Learning, Effectiveness And Research (CLEAR)—will investigate the effectiveness of interventions such as imagining tests, physical therapy, opioids, spine injections, and spine surgery, as well as approaches for implementation.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) are funding the 5-year, $3.7 million initiative, which will include pragmatic and comparative effectiveness trials and Core groups, including:

  • The Methodology Core, led by Patrick J. Heagerty PhD, Chair of the Department of Biostatistics, and Sean Mooney PhD, Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Chief Research Information Officer
  • The Resource Core, led by Janna Friedly MD, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, and Danielle Lavallee PharmD PhD, Research Associate Professor of Surgery

Dr. Jarvik is a Professor of Radiology at University of Washington and the Principal Investigator the Collaboratory Demonstration Project, the Lumbar Imaging with Reporting of Epidemiology (LIRE) trial.

 

September 19, 2017: The NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory Turns Five!

Five years ago this September marks the birth of the NIH Health Care Systems Collaboratory, an NIH Common Fund project designed to build national infrastructure for conducting pragmatic clinical trials (PCTs). At the heart of the NIH Collaboratory is an ongoing series of Demonstration Projects that embed innovative pragmatic clinical research within the “real-world” conditions of working healthcare systems.

In addition to supporting these Demonstration Projects, the NIH Collaboratory also works to advance PCT methodologies and ensure that knowledge and lessons learned are disseminated as widely as possible. With a series of Core Working Groups dedicated to exploring different facets of trial design and conduct, the NIH Collaboratory has already made significant contributions to the knowledge base in the PCT arena. In addition, its Distributed Research Network allows rich electronic data resources to be efficiently queried by investigators while ensuring the security of confidential information.

As the NIH Collaboratory celebrates its fifth birthday, it is also preparing to embark upon a new phase of efforts. With the award of grant funding for an additional 5 years this September and the unveiling of the redesigned and expanded Living Textbook, the NIH Collaboratory offers a growing array of resources and knowledge that will equip health systems to engage in sustainable pragmatic clinical research on a national scale.

For more, see Duke Clinical Research Institute’s article on the Collaboratory’s first 5 years.

Recent Collaboratory Publications on Research Ethics


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.


STOP CRC Trial: Analytic Challenges and Pragmatic Solutions


Investigators from the STOP CRC pragmatic trial, an NIH Collaboratory Demonstration Project, have recently published an article in the journal eGEMs describing solutions to issues that arose in the trial’s implementation phase. STOP CRC tests a program to improve colorectal cancer screening rates in a collaborative network of Federally Qualified Health Centers by mailing fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) kits to screen-eligible patients at clinics in the intervention arm. Clinics in the control arm provided opportunistic colorectal-cancer screening to patients at clinic visits in Year 1 and implemented the intervention in Year 2. In this cluster-randomized trial, clinics are the unit of analysis, rather than individual patients, with the primary outcome being the proportion of screen-eligible patients at each clinic who complete a FIT.

The team dealt with various challenges that threatened the validity of their primary analysis, one of which related to potential contamination of the primary outcome due to the timing of the intervention rollout: for control participants, the Year 2 intervention actively overlapped with the Year 1 control measurements. The other challenge was due to a lack of synchronization between the measurement and accrual windows. To deal with these issues, the team had to slightly modify the study design in addition to developing a few sensitivity analyses to better estimate the true impact of the intervention.

“While the nature of the challenges we encountered are not unique to pragmatic trials, we believe they are likely to be more common in such trials due to both the types of designs commonly used in such studies and the challenges of implementing system-based interventions within freestanding health clinics.” (Vollmer et al. eGEMs 2015)

The Publish EDM Forum Community publishes eGEMs (generating evidence & methods to improve patient outcomes) and provides free and open access to this methods case study. Readers can access the article here.

PCORnet Posts Aspirin Study Protocol for Public Review and Comment


PCORnetThe National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet) has recently made a draft protocol for its first randomized clinical trial available for stakeholder review. Researchers, clinicians, patients and the public are all invited to read the current draft of the study protocol and provide comments and feedback.

The ADAPTABLE Study (PDF), which will investigate whether lower- or higher-dose aspirin is better for preventing heart attack and stroke in patients at risk for heart disease, is PCORnet’s first randomized pragmatic clinical trial. Designed to leverage PCORnet’s Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs) and Patient-Powered Research Networks (PPRNs), the trial will serve as twofold purpose: answering a clinical question of direct importance for patients, families, and healthcare providers, and serving as a demonstration of PCORnet’s capabilities in conducting clinical research on a national scale.

Links to the proposed study protocol, a survey tool for capturing feedback, and other information about ADAPTABLE Study, including press releases, fact sheets, and infographics, are available at the link below:

ADAPTABLE: The Aspirin Study

Follow PCORnet on Twitter @PCORnetwork for updates on the ADAPTABLE #ClinicalTrial


Patient-Reported Outcomes Workshop Report Available


Tools for ResearchIn January of 2015, the NIH HCS Collaboratory’s Patient-Reported Outcomes (PRO) Core Group convened a 2-day workshop in Baltimore devoted to identifying barriers and possible solutions to the use of NIH-supported PRO tools in comparative-effectiveness research (CER).

Findings from the meeting, which include case study presentations and reflections from multiple stakeholders representing the research, clinical, and patient communities, were distilled into a summary document available from the NIH Collaboratory Knowledge Repository at the link below:

The workshop summary is also available on the Living Textbook’s “Tools for Research” section, under “Patient-Reported Outcomes White Paper.


PCORI Announces First PCORnet Demonstration Project: The ADAPTABLE Aspirin Study


PCORnetThe Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) has approved the first pragmatic clinical trial to be performed through the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORnet)—the ADAPTABLE study (Aspirin Dosing: A Patient-centric Trial Assessing Benefits and Long-term Effectiveness).

Over the course of the trial, 20,000 study participants with cardiovascular disease will be randomly assigned to receive one of two commonly used doses of aspirin—a low dose of 81 mg per day versus a higher dose of 325 mg per day—in order to determine which provides the optimal balance between protecting patients with cardiovascular disease from heart attack and stroke, and minimizing bleeding events associated with aspirin therapy. The trial will also employ a number of innovative methods, including electronic health record (EHR)-based data collection and a patient-centered, web-based enrollment model in partnership with the Health eHeart Alliance Patient-Powered Research Network (PPRN).

The ADAPTABLE trial, which includes six of PCORnet’s Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs), will be led and coordinated through the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI).


Read more about the ADAPTABLE Aspirin Trial here:
Fact Sheet (PDF)
Infographic (PDF)
DCRI Coordinating Center Announcement