Design and Analysis of Studies Based on Hierarchical Composite Endpoints: Insights from the DARE-19 Trial

Ther Innov Regul Sci. 2022 Sep;56(5):785-794. doi: 10.1007/s43441-022-00420-1. Epub 2022 Jun 14.


Background/aim: DARE-19 (NCT04350593) was a randomized trial studying the effects of dapagliflozin, an SGLT2 inhibitor, in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia and cardiometabolic risk factors. The conduct of DARE-19 offered the opportunity to define an innovative and clinically meaningful endpoint in a new disease that would best reflect the known profile of dapagliflozin, accompanied by the statistical challenges of analysis and interpretation of such a novel endpoint.

Methods: Hierarchical composite endpoints (HCEs) are based on clinical outcomes which, unlike traditional composite endpoints incorporate ranking of components according to clinical importance. Design of an HCE requires the clinical considerations specific to the therapeutic area under study and the mechanism of action of the investigational treatment. Statistical aspects for the clinical endpoints include the proper definition of the estimand as suggested by ICH E9(R1) for the precise specification of the treatment effect measured by an HCE.

Results: We describe the estimand of the DARE-19 trial, where an HCE was constructed to capture the treatment effect of dapagliflozin in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, and was analyzed using a win odds. Practical aspects of designing new studies based on an HCE are described. These include sample size, power, and minimal detectable effect calculations for an HCE based on the win odds analysis, as well as handling of missing data and the clinical interpretability of the win odds in relation to the estimand.

Conclusions: HCEs are flexible endpoints that can be adapted for use in different therapeutic areas, with win odds as the analysis method. DARE-19 is an example of a COVID-19 trial with an HCE as one of the primary endpoints for estimating a clinically interpretable treatment effect in the COVID-19 setting.

Keywords: COVID-19; Dapagliflozin; Hierarchical composite endpoints; SGLT2 inhibitors; Win odds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Sample Size

Associated data