Real-World Data and Randomised Controlled Trials: The Salford Lung Study
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Traditional efficacy double-blind randomised controlled trials (DBRCTs) measure the benefit a treatment produces under near-ideal test conditions in highly selected patient populations; however, the behaviour of patients and investigators in such trials is highly controlled, highly compliant and adherent, and non-representative of routine clinical practice. Pragmatic effectiveness trials measure the benefit a treatment produces in patients in everyday "real-world" practice. Ideally, effectiveness trials should recruit patients as similar as possible to those who will ultimately be prescribed the medicine, and create freedom within the study design to allow normal behaviours of patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) to be expressed. The Salford Lung Study (SLS) was a world-first, prospective, phase III, pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT) programme in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma to evaluate the effectiveness of a pre-licensed medication (fluticasone furoate/vilanterol) in real-world practice using electronic health records and through collaboratively engaging general practitioners and community pharmacists in clinical research. The real-world aspect of SLS was unique, requiring careful planning and attention to the goals of maximising the external validity of the trials while maintaining scientific rigour and securing suitable electronic processes for proper interpretation of safety data. Key learnings from SLS that may inform the design of future pragmatic effectiveness RCTs include: (1) ensuring the trial setting and operational infrastructure are aligned with routine clinical care; (2) recruiting a broad patient population with characteristics as close as possible to patients in routine clinical practice, to maximise the generalisability and applicability of trial results; (3) ensuring that patients and HCPs are suitably engaged in the trial, to maximise the chances of successful trial delivery; and (4) careful study design, incorporating outcomes of value to patients, HCPs, policymakers and payers, and using pre-planned analyses to address scientifically valid research hypotheses to ensure robustness of the trial data.
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