Representation of people with comorbidity and multimorbidity in clinical trials of novel drug therapies: an individual-level participant data analysis

Peter Hanlon, Laurie Hannigan, Jesus Rodriguez-Perez, Colin Fischbacher, Nicky J Welton, Sofia Dias, Frances S Mair, Bruce Guthrie, Sarah Wild, David A McAllister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
183 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Clinicians are less likely to prescribe guideline-recommended treatments to people with multimorbidity than to people with a single condition. Doubts as to the applicability of clinical trials of drug treatments (the gold standard for evidence-based medicine) when people have co-existing diseases (comorbidity) may underlie this apparent reluctance. Therefore, for a range of index conditions, we measured the comorbidity among participants in clinical trials of novel drug therapies and compared this to the comorbidity among patients in the community.

METHODS: Data from industry-sponsored phase 3/4 multicentre trials of novel drug therapies for chronic medical conditions were identified from two repositories: Clinical Study Data Request and the Yale University Open Data Access project. We identified 116 trials (n = 122,969 participants) for 22 index conditions. Community patients were identified from a nationally representative sample of 2.3 million patients in Wales, UK. Twenty-one comorbidities were identified from medication use based on pre-specified definitions. We assessed the prevalence of each comorbidity and the total number of comorbidities (level of multimorbidity), for each trial and in community patients.

RESULTS: In the trials, the commonest comorbidities in order of declining prevalence were chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, affective disorders, acid-related disorders, asthma/COPD and diabetes. These conditions were also common in community-based patients. Mean comorbidity count for trial participants was approximately half that seen in community-based patients. Nonetheless, a substantial proportion of trial participants had a high degree of multimorbidity. For example, in asthma and psoriasis trials, 10-15% of participants had ≥ 3 conditions overall, while in osteoporosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease trials 40-60% of participants had ≥ 3 conditions overall.

CONCLUSIONS: Comorbidity and multimorbidity are less common in trials than in community populations with the same index condition. Comorbidity and multimorbidity are, nevertheless, common in trials. This suggests that standard, industry-funded clinical trials are an underused resource for investigating treatment effects in people with comorbidity and multimorbidity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201 (2019)
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medicine
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • randomised controlled trials
  • comorbidity
  • multimorbidity

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