Intramuscular versus Enteral Penicillin Prophylaxis to Prevent Progression of Rheumatic Heart Disease: Study protocol for a non-inferiority randomized trial (the GOALIE trial)

Am Heart J. 2024 May 24:S0002-8703(24)00127-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2024.05.012. Online ahead of print.


Background: Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) persists as a major cardiovascular driver of mortality and morbidity among young people in low- and middle-income countries. Secondary antibiotic prophylaxis (SAP) with penicillin remains the cornerstone of RHD control, however, sub-optimal treatment adherence undermines most secondary prevention programs. Many of the barriers to optimal SAP adherence are specific to the intramuscular form of penicillin and may potentially be overcome by use of oral penicillin. This non-inferiority trial is comparing the efficacy of intramuscular to oral penicillin SAP to prevent progression of mild RHD at 2 years.

Methods/design: The Intramuscular versus Enteral Penicillin Prophylaxis to Prevent Progression of Rheumatic Heart Disease (GOALIE) trial is randomizing Ugandan children aged 5-17 years identified by echocardiographic screening with mild RHD (Stage A or B as defined by 2023 World Heart Federation criteria) to Benzathine Benzyl Penicillin G (BPG arm, every-28-day intramuscular penicillin) or Phenoxymethyl Penicillin (Pen V arm, twice daily oral penicillin) for a period of 2 years. A blinded echocardiography adjudication panel of 3 RHD experts and 2 cardiologists is determining the echocardiographic stage of RHD at enrollment and will do the same at study completion by consensus review. Treatment adherence and study retention are supported through peer support groups and case management strategies. The primary outcome is the proportion of children in the Pen V arm who progress to more advanced RHD compared to those in the BPG arm. Secondary outcomes are patient-reported outcomes (treatment acceptance, satisfaction, and health related quality of life), costs, and cost-effectiveness of oral compared to intramuscular penicillin prophylaxis for RHD. A total sample size of 1004 participants will provide 90% power to demonstrate non-inferiority using a margin of 4% with allowance for 7% loss to follow-up. Participant enrollment commenced in October 2023 and final participant follow-up is expected in December 2026. The graphical abstract (Figure 1) summarizes the flow of echocardiographic screening, participant enrollment and follow-up.

Discussion: The GOALIE trial is critical in global efforts to refine a pragmatic approach to secondary prevention for RHD control. GOALIE insists that the inferiority of oral penicillin be proven contemporarily and against the most important near-term clinical outcome of progression of RHD severity. This work also considers other factors that could influence the adoption of oral prophylaxis and change the calculus for acceptable efficacy including patient-reported outcomes and costs.

Trial registration: NCT05693545.

Keywords: Efficacy; Intramuscular; Oral; Penicillin; Progression; Rheumatic Heart Disease; Secondary Antibiotic Prophylaxis.

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