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Stat Biopharm Res. 2015 Jan 1;7(1):12-24.

A simulation study evaluating bio-creep risk in serial non-inferiority clinical trials for preservation of effect.

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University of Washington, Seattle, WA.


In non-inferiority trials, acceptable efficacy of an experimental treatment is established by ruling out some defined level of reduced effect relative to an effective active control standard. Serial use of non-inferiority trials may lead to newly approved therapies that provide meaningfully reduced levels of benefit; this phenomenon is called bio-creep. Simulations were designed to facilitate understanding of bio-creep risk when approval of an experimental treatment with efficacy less than some proportion of the effect of the active control treatment would constitute harm, such as when new antibiotics that are meaningfully less effective than the most effective current antibiotic would be used for treatment of Community-Acquired Bacterial Pneumonia. In this setting, risk of approval of insufficiently effective therapies may be great, even when the standard treatment effect satisfies constancy across trials. Modifiable factors contributing to this manifestation of bio-creep included the active control selection method, the non-inferiority margin, and bias in the active control effect estimate. Therefore, when non-inferiority testing is performed, the best available treatment should be used as the standard, and margins should be based on the estimated effect of this control, accounting for the variability and for likely sources of bias in this estimate, and addressing the importance of preservation of some portion of the standard's effect.

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