Objectives: Our objectives were to develop, based on the analysis of archived clinical trial documents and data and on the requirements of GCP-compliant electronic archiving, a concept for legally secure and technically feasible archiving of the entire clinical trial, including the essential documents of the trial master file and the study database.
Methods: Based on own experiences with CDISC, existing implementations and future developments, CDISC standards were evaluated concerning requirements for archiving clinical studies. Trial master files of a small, medium and large clinical study were analyzed to collect specifications for electronic archiving of records.
Results: Two different ways of long-term storage exist for the clinical trial archive: document-oriented archival and data archiving of the study database. The trial master file has a highly complex structure; its different parts can vary greatly in size, depending of the working style of investigators, number of patients recruited, the number of adverse event reports and the number of queries. The CDISC standard ODM is especially suited for archiving clinical trials, because among other features it contains the entire clinical trial data and full audit trail information. On the other hand SDTM is a content standard suited for data warehouses. Two recent developments in CDISC will affect the archival of studies: the further development of ODM in the area of "eCRF submission" and the use of "Electronic Source Data".
Conclusions: The complexity and size of the trial master file requires new solutions. Though ODM provides effective means to archive the study database, it shows still deficiencies, especially for the joint archiving of data and the complex documentation of the trial master file. A concept was developed in which the ODM standard is part of an integrated archiving of the trial data and documents. ODM archiving of the study database enables long-term storage which is GCP-compliant. Archiving of documents of the trial master file in PDF/A, including links and electronic signatures, as well as the storage of selected study data in a data warehouse at the sponsor site in SDTM are the other components of the concept.