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Defining Estimands Using a Mix of Strategies to Handle Intercurrent Events in Clinical Trials

by   Yongming Qu, et al.

Randomized controlled trials (RCT) are the gold standard for evaluation of the efficacy and safety of investigational interventions. If every patient in an RCT were to adhere to the randomized treatment, one could simply analyze the complete data to infer the treatment effect. However, intercurrent events (ICEs) including the use of concomitant medication for unsatisfactory efficacy, treatment discontinuation due to adverse events, or lack of efficacy, may lead to interventions that deviate from the original treatment assignment. Therefore, defining the appropriate estimand (the appropriate parameter to be estimated) based on the primary objective of the study is critical prior to determining the statistical analysis method and analyzing the data. The International Council for Harmonisation (ICH) E9 (R1), published on November 20, 2019, provided 5 strategies to define the estimand: treatment policy, hypothetical, composite variable, while on treatment and principal stratum. In this article, we propose an estimand using a mix of strategies in handling ICEs. This estimand is an average of the null treatment difference for those with ICEs potentially related to safety and the treatment difference for the other patients if they would complete the assigned treatments. Two examples from clinical trials evaluating anti-diabetes treatments are provided to illustrate the estimation of this proposed estimand and to compare it with the estimates for estimands using hypothetical and treatment policy strategies in handling ICEs.


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