This paper illustrates a simple method that can be used to estimate input values for auxiliary parameters in multidimensional cost-effectiveness models. Since thorough methodological expertise in indirect comparisons may not always be accessible, the method illustrated in this paper could be used to derive efficacy of treatments where direct trials based on data are not readily available. To establish the efficacy of a drug regimen, it is necessary to compare outcomes for patients on and off therapy. While it is sometimes possible to derive this information directly from the results of randomized controlled trials, clinical trials are expected to provide enrolled participants with the best proven treatment, or at least the standard of care . Thus, most studies compare different treatment options; studies that administer placebo to some subjects despite existing and accepted treatment options for the disease of interest lack equipoise and therefore are not ethical or feasible . In this paper we have illustrated a simple method for indirectly estimating the dose-specific efficacy of drug regimens from reported results of randomized controlled trials without placebo arms by a straightforward adjustment for baseline clinical severity. When possible, we estimated the efficacies directly from the trials.
We found that the derived adjusted indirect efficacies of clarithromycin and azithromycin were similar to corresponding direct efficacies. However, the indirect efficacy of rifabutin was significantly lower than the efficacy derived by direct comparison. Unlike most other studies used in this analysis, the Nightingale et al. study reported mean duration on treatment, which is shorter than mean follow-up time. This substitution may therefore have led to an overestimation of the direct efficacy of rifabutin. The greater efficacy of rifabutin in the direct comparison may also be attributed to the greater proportion of patients on ART in this trial.
Our proposed method was consistent with that of previous studies showing that adjusted indirect comparison reduces bias in drug efficacy calculations [5–7, 11]. Our inclusion criteria were stricter than those in previous studies, because we examined outcomes only from trials that compared drug regimens with specific doses and that provided results at several time points. Thus, we avoided having to pool results from various doses of the same drug regimen. Our results may be more accurate than previous studies for the specific doses examined, since we only included trials that administered the doses recommended in the United States "Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents". Similar results may be obtained using Indirect Treatment Comparisons (ITC) Software from the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Health Technologies . While this offers a means of validation of the methods in this paper, a step-by-step description may be useful to those who do not have direct access to the ITC software, or for further understanding of the insights provided.
One of the main purposes of the indirect comparisons is to make stronger inferences about comparisons being studied. We recognize the scarcity of placebo-controlled trials in the HIV/AIDS field, particularly among newer trials, and we believe that using older placebo-controlled trials, as we have done in our illustration, for the purpose of adjusted indirect comparisons, is acceptable. Our study was limited by the number of studies that could be used to derive OI prophylaxis efficacy. Only five studies met the inclusion criteria. However, because the focus of this analysis was to illustrate simple and replicable methodology for adjusted indirect comparison of drug regimens, the small number of included studies does not deter from this goal. Moreover, two studies did not report follow-up time [13, 15]. For these studies, we calculated efficacy by substituting follow-up time with mean duration on treatment to calculate efficacy. The Oldfield et al. study was terminated early because administering placebo became inappropriate when the results of a separate azithromycin efficacy trial . It may be reasonable to assume that most patients were on treatment at the time of study discontinuation, and thus that the unreported mean follow-up time is very similar to the mean duration on treatment. However, treatment duration in the Nightingale et al. study may have been greater than the true unreported mean follow-up time, and could have led to an overestimation of the efficacy of rifabutin. While this method offers a useful approach for derivation of point estimates, an extensive set of sensitivity analyses are necessary to examine the robustness of policy conclusions to uncertainty in parameter values. If a parameter is influential, more sophisticated methods should be employed to obtain a more precise value of parameter.
The prevalence of MAC and other opportunistic infections among HIV-infected patients in the United States and Europe has greatly decreased since the earlier years of the HIV epidemic, due to the success of combination antiretroviral therapy . However, methods presented in this study continue to be applicable to resource-limited settings, where the use of opportunistic infection prophylaxis in the absence of ART is still widespread. In these areas, the WHO recommends lifelong prophylaxis for fungal and bacterial infections, as well as for Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia with drugs such as fluconazole and cotrimoxazole . In the United States, recommendations for the prevention of opportunistic infections continue to be revised regularly in the national guidelines [12, 21, 22]. Similar indirect comparison methods may be useful in comparing effective first-line antiretroviral regimens in the United States and in many countries–such as those containing efavirenz, darunavir, atazanavir, and raltegravir in the United States–that have not been compared directly with each other [23–25]. These methods can also be used to compare second-line or subsequent ART regimens when efficacy data have been published but direct comparisons may have not been done.