How Should Results from Completed Studies Influence Ongoing Clinical Trials?
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Seven randomized studies during the past 5 years have evaluated or are evaluating the efficacy of warfarin or aspirin or both in decreasing the risk of embolic events in patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation. By March 1990, two of the studies had been published, both of which showed a statistically significant decrease in embolic events in patients treated with warfarin and a low rate of major bleeding events. The investigators associated with the other ongoing studies were forced to consider how these results should affect the decision to recruit and continue follow-up of patients in their own studies. The Steering Committee of the Canadian Atrial Fibrillation Anticoagulation (CAFA) study thought the newly published results from other studies were valid, clinically important, and generalizable. The committee considered the following options for the CAFA study: continue patient recruitment as planned, provide the data available in CAFA to its External Safety and Efficacy Monitoring Committee for analysis to determine whether the CAFA data already showed a benefit of warfarin, stop patient recruitment but continue to follow patients in the group to which they were assigned, stop the trial immediately and perform a final analysis, and attempt to perform a meta-analysis of all data available from all trials. The Steering Committee of CAFA decided that the evidence of benefit with warfarin, from the two published studies, was sufficiently compelling as to stop recruitment into CAFA without any preliminary examination of the CAFA data.
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