The Design of Clinical Trials in Portal Hypertension

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Portal hypertension (PH) is the main consequence of cirrhosis and is responsible for the majority of its complications. Gastroesophageal varices and variceal hemorrhage are direct consequences of PH; therefore, most clinical trials in PH have been directed toward treating or preventing variceal hemorrhage. However, varices and variceal hemorrhage are not isolated events; they must be considered in the context of the presence (or absence) of other complications of cirrhosis/PH. Cirrhosis progresses across different stages, each with a different prognosis and pathophysiology and hence different therapeutic targets. In this review, the authors discuss the design of proof-of-concept studies for the assessment of new drugs for the treatment of PH, that are mainly based on the drug's ability to reduce the hepatic venous pressure gradient. They further discuss the design of studies with clinical endpoints in the context of each stage of cirrhosis, specifically targets of therapy, optimal therapies in the control arm, risk stratification, and primary outcome.

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