Optimal design is a methodology that can be a valuable tool for the planning of clinical studies. Current applications however, are largely limited to early phases of the drug development process. The increasing complexity in late phase trials is a major reason why optimal design is not applied at these stages. This work uses the example of Alzheimer's disease to investigate challenges and potential of applying optimal design in late phase clinical trials.
Information from several sources was used to construct a disease progression model for Alzheimer's disease. The resulting model was used to optimize the study design of an Alzheimer's trial for three distinct metrics: maximal information, minimal number of samples and maximal power to detect a drug effect. Challenges encountered and addressed during the implementation included covariates, dropout and clinical constraints.
Depending on the optimization criterion used, the optimal designs had 35% a higher efficiency, needed 33% fewer samples to obtain the same amount of information or required 70% fewer individuals to achieve 80% power compared to the reference design.
Optimal design can improve the design and therefore reduce the costs of late phase trials. Several tools and techniques have been identified to address the main challenges connected to this application.