Innovating cystic fibrosis clinical trial designs in an era of successful standard of care therapies

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Purpose of reviewEvolving cystic fibrosis ‘standards of care’ have influenced recent cystic fibrosis clinical trial designs for new therapies; care additions/improvements will require innovative trial designs to maximize feasibility and efficacy detection.Recent findingsThree cystic fibrosis therapeutic areas (pulmonary exacerbations, Pseudomonas aeruginosa airway infections, and reduced cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator [CFTR] protein function) differ with respect to the duration for which recognized ‘standards of care’ have been available. However, developers of new therapies in all the three areas are affected by similar challenges: standards of care have become so strongly entrenched that traditional placebo-controlled studies in cystic fibrosis populations likely to benefit from newer therapies have become less and less feasible. Today, patients/clinicians are more likely to entertain participation in active-comparator trial designs, that have substantial challenges of their own. Foremost among these are the selection of ‘valid’ active comparator(s), estimation of a comparator's current clinical efficacy (required for testing noninferiority hypotheses), and effective blinding of commercially available comparators.SummaryRecent and future cystic fibrosis clinical trial designs will have to creatively address this collateral result of successful past development of effective cystic fibrosis therapies: patients and clinicians are much less likely to accept simple, placebo-controlled studies to evaluate future therapies.

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