A statistical approach to identify optimal inclusion criteria: An application to acute stroke clinical trials

Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2019 Apr 9;14:100355. doi: 10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100355. eCollection 2019 Jun.


Purpose: To develop a statistical approach that compares patient selection strategies across clinical trials and apply this approach to acute ischemic stroke clinical trials to identify the optimal inclusion criteria.

Methods: We developed a statistical approach that compares the number needed to treat to achieve one success (NNT) along with the number needed to screen to achieve one success (NNS) and assesses if there are significant differences in inclusion criteria, treatment course, and clinical outcome among patients that may have been included/excluded in the trials. We applied this approach to the study population from four recent positive acute stroke clinical trials: MR CLEAN, EXTEND-IA, ESCAPE, and SWIFT PRIME, applying published trial criteria to an independent registry of 612 acute stroke patients, since we did not have access to the complete trial data.

Results: Although reported NNT were similar for EXTEND-IA, SWIFT PRIME and ESCAPE, and somewhat higher for MR CLEAN, NNS varied across the trials from 21 for EXTEND-IA, 27 for MR CLEAN, to 46 for ESCAPE and 64 for SWIFT PRIME, reflecting less and more stringent inclusion criteria, respectively. Although there were significant differences in imaging biomarkers and other clinical characteristics among patients that may have been included/excluded in the trials, these differences did not translate to significant differences in treatment course or clinical outcomes.

Conclusions: Our study proposes a robust statistical approach that can be applied to a larger pooled trial dataset, if made available, to objectively compare across clinical trials and inform inclusion criteria of future trials. Pooled analysis of the acute stroke trial data is needed to determine which imaging biomarker inclusion criteria are critical and which may be relaxed. If this procedure were applied across the pooled trial data, it could decrease costs and refine the design of future trials to be the most efficacious for the greatest number of patients.

Keywords: Acute stroke; Clinical trial; Inclusion criteria; Patient selection.