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Differences between clinical trials and postmarketing use

Article date: January 2004

By: Karin Martin, Bernard Bégaud, Philippe Latry, Ghada Miremont‐Salamé, Annie Fourrier, Nicholas Moore, in Volume 57, Issue 1, pages 86-92

Aims   Clinical trials constitute the gold standard to assess the efficacy and safety of new medicines. However, because they are conducted in standardized conditions far from the real world of prescription and use, discrepancies in patient selection or treatment conditions may alter both the effectiveness and risks. On the basis of three examples, our objectives were to study the differences between the characteristics of treated populations and treatment patterns in clinical trials and in postmarketing settings and to discuss the potential consequences on actual efficacy and safety.

Methods   Treated populations were compared with patients included in premarketing clinical trials. Comparisons were made on the basis of demographic characteristics and treatment patterns.

Results   Whatever the indicator and the drug studied, differences were observed: from 0.04% to 63% for tacrine, from 0% to 37% for celecoxib and from 6% to 52% for simvastatin, with possible consequences on the effectiveness and safety of the drug concerned. Our results confirm the under‐representation of women and elderly patients in premarketing clinical trials, e.g. an M : F ratio of 4.6 in clinical trails of simvastatin vs 1.0 in the joint population. Moreover, the concomitant use of medicines was made extremely restrictive by the protocols of these trials while this was not the case in the postmarketing phase. This has possible consequences on the effectiveness and safety of the drug concerned.

Conclusions   These results plead for systematic ad hoc observational postmarketing studies for any novel and/or expensive medicine to assess the relevance of premarketing data.

DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.01953.x

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