The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Disease Prevention (ODP) has just released a free, self-paced online course on designing and analyzing pragmatic and group-randomized trials. The course, which is presented by ODP Director Dr. David Murray, includes a series of seven video presentations plus slide sets, reference materials, and guided activities.
Course segments typically last 25 to 35 minutes. Presentations can be accessed individually and include the following topics:
The ABATE Infection trial, an NIH Collaboratory project led by Dr. Susan Huang, is featured in the September 12 Health section of the Wall Street Journal. The article describes several studies aimed at preventing the hospital-associated infection MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
In the Reduce MRSA trial, published in 2013, Dr. Huang’s team demonstrated that treating ICU patients with a germ-fighting soap plus a nasal antibiotic ointment, an approach called “universal decolonization,” was superior to standard approaches in preventing MRSA infections. The ABATE Infection trial examines similar approaches to decolonization for all patients in non–critical care medical and surgical units, comparing the use of an antiseptic bath and nasal ointment to standard bathing and showering. More than 1 million showers and baths were taken over the course of the study, which has now completed enrollment. Data from ABATE are currently being analyzed, with the results expected to inform whether this strategy is effective in reducing hospital-associated infections.
“These are preventable infections and we should be able to drive them down to zero.” Susan Huang, MD
On Friday of last week, the US Department of Health and Human Services published a long-awaited final rule (PDF) that governs the registration and data reporting for clinical trials with ClinicalTrials.gov. The final rule and an accompanying complementary policy issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) represents the formal codification and clarification of requirements first described in Section 801 of the 2007 Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA). These requirements oblige research sponsors or other responsible parties to register most kinds of clinical trials with an accepted, publicly available registry (such as ClinicalTrials.gov) and to report certain key data about the trial design, study population, and outcomes.
However, despite the enactment of FDAAA in 2008, compliance with many of its requirements has generally been poor, as both scholarly investigations and media reports have documented. Although registration of trials has improved during this interval, possibly due to many scientific journals refusing to publish reports from unregistered studies, basic summary data (including information about adverse events) from many clinical trials have gone unreported in the ClinicalTrials.gov registry, with academic researchers being among the worst offenders for late reporting or failure to report. In addition, although Section 801 of FDAAA includes penalties for not meeting reporting obligations, no enforcement actions have yet been taken.
The final rule, which goes into effect in January of 2017, clarifies reporting requirements and responsibilities, provides checklists for research sponsors, establishes penalties for failing to fulfill reporting obligations in a timely fashion, and obligates sponsors to furnish the full research protocol to ClincalTrials.gov. Importantly, the HHS rules and NIH policy also articulate new standards for gathering and reporting data about the race and ethnicity of trial participants—information that has often been lacking from many trials datasets.
The authors elaborate on four required components of the framework:
Searchable libraries of explicitly defined phenotype definitions
Knowledge bases with information and methods
Tools to identify, evaluate, and implement existing phenotype definitions
Motivated users and stakeholders
Read the entire eGEMs open access publication here. eGEMs (Generating Evidence & Methods to improve patient outcomes), a product of AcademyHealth’s Electronic Data Methods (EDM) Forum, is a peer-reviewed, open access journal that seeks to accelerate research and quality improvement using electronic health data.
Related resources:You can find extensive information on computable phenotypes in the Living Textbookchapter and in Tools for Research.
The PATIENTS program at the University of Maryland has produced a brief videoon the role of Stakeholder Advisory Boards. Stakeholders are anyone who cares about the outcomes of a clinical study to inform healthcare decisions. The board’s purpose is to advise the study team during the course of a trial to help ensure the results are relevant and important to all stakeholders.
A Stakeholder Advisory Board comprises a diverse and balanced collection of individuals and organizations from the following groups:
Patients, caregivers, and advocacy organizations
Clinicians, nursing staff, specialists, and healthcare system administrators
Academic investigators and other researchers
Public and private healthcare payers
Policy and guideline organizations
Industry sponsors and therapeutic product developers
The 4-minute video features Ellen Tambor, MA, Senior Research Manager at the Center for Medical Technology Policy and a member of the Collaboratory’s Stakeholder Engagement Core working group.
The study team for the Trauma Survivors Outcomes and Support (TSOS) trial recently published their study protocol in Implementation Science. TSOS, an NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory Demonstration Project, is an effectiveness-implementation hybrid trial designed to test the delivery of screening and intervention for PTSD and comorbidities across 24 U.S. level I trauma center sites. The study employs a stepped-wedge, cluster-randomized design in which sites are randomized sequentially to initiate the intervention. The study aims to determine if injured patients receiving a collaborative care intervention demonstrate significant reductions in PTSD symptoms when compared with control patients receiving usual care. The study will also evaluate whether intervention patients demonstrate significant reductions in depressive symptoms and associated suicidal ideation, alcohol use problems, and improvements in physical function.
In a recent post on the FDA’s “FDA Voice” blog, Associate Deputy Commissioner Rachel Sherman and Commissioner Robert Califf describe how to overcome barriers to data sharing and create a successful national system for medical evidence generation (or “EvGen”). To foster new approaches for creating clinical evidence the authors suggest 3 principles:
“1. There must be a common approach to how data is presented, reported and analyzed and strict methods for ensuring patient privacy and data security.
2. Rules of engagement must be transparent and developed through a process that builds consensus across the relevant ecosystem and its stakeholders.
3. To ensure support across a diverse ecosystem that often includes competing priorities and incentives, the system’s output must be intended for the public good and be readily accessible to all stakeholders.”
Drs. Sherman and Califf point to substantial pioneering work being done in secondary use of data, in which data collected for clinical care are “secondarily” used for research, including projects currently underway through the NIH Collaboratory, PCORnet, and other initiatives and networks. The experience gained from these groundbreaking efforts should provide a foundation for a national system for evidence generation.
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:
The Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) has released its Annual Reportfor 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.”
A PDF version of the report is available here. Previous Annual Reports are also available on the CTTI website.
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.