Applicability and added value of novel methods to improve drug development in rare diseases

Marian Mitroiu, Katrien Oude Rengerink, Caridad Pontes, Aranzazu Sancho, Roser Vives, Stella Pesiou, Juan Manuel Fontanet, Ferran Torres, Stavros Nikolakopoulos, Konstantinos Pateras, Gerd Rosenkranz, Martin Posch, Susanne Urach, Robin Ristl, Armin Koch, Spineli Loukia, Johanna H. van der Lee, Kit C.B. Roes

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11 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: The ASTERIX project developed a number of novel methods suited to study small populations. The objective of this exercise was to evaluate the applicability and added value of novel methods to improve drug development in small populations, using real world drug development programmes as reported in European Public Assessment Reports. METHODS: The applicability and added value of thirteen novel methods developed within ASTERIX were evaluated using data from 26 European Public Assessment Reports (EPARs) for orphan medicinal products, representative of rare medical conditions as predefined through six clusters. The novel methods included were 'innovative trial designs' (six methods), 'level of evidence' (one method), 'study endpoints and statistical analysis' (four methods), and 'meta-analysis' (two methods) and they were selected from the methods developed within ASTERIX based on their novelty; methods that discussed already available and applied strategies were not included for the purpose of this validation exercise. Pre-requisites for application in a study were systematized for each method, and for each main study in the selected EPARs it was assessed if all pre-requisites were met. This direct applicability using the actual study design was firstly assessed. Secondary, applicability and added value were explored allowing changes to study objectives and design, but without deviating from the context of the drug development plan. We evaluated whether differences in applicability and added value could be observed between the six predefined condition clusters. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Direct applicability of novel methods appeared to be limited to specific selected cases. The applicability and added value of novel methods increased substantially when changes to the study setting within the context of drug development were allowed. In this setting, novel methods for extrapolation, sample size re-assessment, multi-armed trials, optimal sequential design for small sample sizes, Bayesian sample size re-estimation, dynamic borrowing through power priors and fall-back tests for co-primary endpoints showed most promise - applicable in more than 40% of evaluated EPARs in all clusters. Most of the novel methods were applicable to conditions in the cluster of chronic and progressive conditions, involving multiple systems/organs. Relatively fewer methods were applicable to acute conditions with single episodes. For the chronic clusters, Goal Attainment Scaling was found to be particularly applicable as opposed to other (non-chronic) clusters. CONCLUSION: Novel methods as developed in ASTERIX can improve drug development programs. Achieving optimal added value of these novel methods often requires consideration of the entire drug development program, rather than reconsideration of methods for a specific trial. The novel methods tested were mostly applicable in chronic conditions, and acute conditions with recurrent episodes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200
JournalOrphanet Journal of Rare Diseases
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2018


  • Clinical trials
  • Orphan
  • Rare condition
  • Small population
  • Statistical methods


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