Considerations in choosing a primary endpoint that measures durability of virological suppression in an antiretroviral trial

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ObjectivesAt present, many clinical trials of anti-HIV-1 therapies compare treatments by a primary endpoint that measures the durability of suppression of HIV-1 replication. Several durability endpoints are compared.DesignEndpoints are compared by their implicit assumptions regarding surrogacy for clinical outcomes, sample size requirements, and accommodations for inter-patient differences in baseline plasma HIV-1-RNA levels and in initial treatment response.MethodsVirological failure is defined by the non-suppression of virus levels at a pre-specified follow-up time T (early virological failure), or by relapse. A binary virological failure endpoint is compared with three time-to-virological failure endpoints: time from (i) randomization that assigns early failures a failure time of T weeks; (ii) randomization that extends the early failure time T for slowly responding subjects; and (iii) virological response that assigns non-responders a failure time of 0 weeks. Endpoint differences are illustrated with Agouron's trial 511.ResultsIn comparing high with low-dose nelfinavir (NFV) regimens in Agouron 511, the difference in Kaplan–Meier estimates of the proportion not failing by 24 weeks is 16.7% (P = 0.048), 6.5% (P = 0.29) and 22.9% (P = 0.0030) for endpoints (i), (ii) and (iii), respectively. The results differ because NFV suppresses virus more quickly at the higher dose, and the endpoints weigh this treatment difference differently. This illustrates that careful consideration needs to be given to choosing a primary endpoint that will detect treatment differences of interest.ConclusionA time from randomization endpoint is usually recommended because of its advantages in flexibility and sample size, especially at interim analyses, and for its interpretation for patient management.

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