Patient-reported outcomes: assessment and current perspectives of the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration and the reflection paper of the European Medicines Agency

Eur J Cancer. 2009 Feb;45(3):347-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2008.09.032. Epub 2008 Nov 14.


Aims: Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) have recently gained greater credibility with regulatory bodies aiming to standardise their use and interpretation in RCTs, thereby supporting medicinal product submissions. For this reason, the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) have released guidelines. This review paper provides an overview of the current perspectives and views on these guidelines.

Method: To evaluate the FDA and EMEA PRO guidelines, 47 expert responses to the FDA guidance were qualitatively reviewed. Two reviewers independently extracted data from these letters and checked these responses to warrant consistency and agreement in the evaluation process. A PubMed literature review was systematically examined to obtain supporting evidence or related articles for both the guidance documents.

Results: Generally, there is agreement between regulatory authorities and the research community on the contents of the FDA and EMEA PRO draft guidance. However, disagreements exist on significant philosophical topics (e.g. the FDA focuses more on conceptual models and symptoms than the EMEA) and design topics (e.g. the FDA is more restrictive on issues of recall bias, blinding of oncology trials and degrees of psychometric validation than researchers and the EMEA). This could influence the approval of PRO claims.

Conclusion: PRO guidance from the EMEA and FDA has been valuable, and has raised the profile and active debate of PROs in oncology. However, our review of the current opinion shows that there are controversial aspects of the guidance. Consequently, greater latitude should be given to how the guidance is interpreted and applied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Approval / methods
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oncology Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / standards*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Quality of Life
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / standards