Open Access from Pharmaceutical Statistics: Natural cubic splines for the analysis of Alzheimer’s clinical trials

Every week, we select a recently published Open Access article to feature. This week’s article is from Pharmaceutical Statistics and proposes an alternative to mixed model repeated measures in the analysis of Alzheimer clinical trials. 

The article’s abstract is given below, with the full article available to read here. 

Donohue, MCLangford, OInsel, PS, et al. Natural cubic splines for the analysis of Alzheimer’s clinical trialsPharmaceutical Statistics20231– 12. doi:10.1002/pst.2285

Mixed model repeated measures (MMRM) is the most common analysis approach used in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and other progressive diseases measured with continuous outcomes over time. The model treats time as a categorical variable, which allows an unconstrained estimate of the mean for each study visit in each randomized group. Categorizing time in this way can be problematic when assessments occur off-schedule, as including off-schedule visits can induce bias, and excluding them ignores valuable information and violates the intention to treat principle. This problem has been exacerbated by clinical trial visits which have been delayed due to the COVID19 pandemic. As an alternative to MMRM, we propose a constrained longitudinal data analysis with natural cubic splines that treats time as continuous and uses test version effects to model the mean over time. Compared to categorical-time models like MMRM and models that assume a proportional treatment effect, the spline model is shown to be more parsimonious and precise in real clinical trial datasets, and has better power and Type I error in a variety of simulation scenarios.

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