Using death as an endpoint in pragmatic clinical trials is challenging because there are no standardized processes for ascertaining patient deaths in the United States. If a patient dies outside of a clinical care system, ascertaining if and how a death has occurred is considerably complicated. There are multiple sources of vital statistics data, each with different amounts of lag time, linking approaches, costs, and specificity of information. For example, some sources include cause of death while others include only fact of death; some have a lag time of a few months and some may take over a year; some charge by the individual file and some have an annual subscription fee.
This section of the Living Textbook describes different death data sources, how to obtain information from them, and the pros and cons of each.
“Death identification and adjudication may be more complicated with pragmatic clinical trials (PCTs) that rely on data collected from the patient’s electronic health record (EHR), medical claims, self-report, or medical devices.” —Eisenstein E, et al. Choosing and Specifying Endpoints and Outcomes: Using Death as an Endpoint. In: Rethinking Clinical Trials: A Living Textbook of Pragmatic Clinical Trials.
The sources of data described in this section include the Death Master File, the Medicare Master Beneficiary Summary File, state vital statistics, the Fact of Death File, the National Death Index, and call centers. The section also presents a case study to illustrate a hybrid death identification and verification approach used in the ToRsemide compArisoN with furoSemide FOR Management of Heart Failure (TRANSFORM-HF) PCT (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03296813).