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Keywords:

  • adaptive design paradigms;
  • Brownian motion;
  • conditional power;
  • exploratory adaptive statistical information design;
  • linear drift;
  • twilight zone

In the last decade or so, interest in adaptive design clinical trials has gradually been directed towards their use in regulatory submissions by pharmaceutical drug sponsors to evaluate investigational new drugs. Methodological advances of adaptive designs are abundant in the statistical literature since the 1970s. The adaptive design paradigm has been enthusiastically perceived to increase the efficiency and to be more cost-effective than the fixed design paradigm for drug development. Much interest in adaptive designs is in those studies with two-stages, where stage 1 is exploratory and stage 2 depends upon stage 1 results, but where the data of both stages will be combined to yield statistical evidence for use as that of a pivotal registration trial. It was not until the recent release of the US Food and Drug Administration Draft Guidance for Industry on Adaptive Design Clinical Trials for Drugs and Biologics (2010) that the boundaries of flexibility for adaptive designs were specifically considered for regulatory purposes, including what are exploratory goals, and what are the goals of adequate and well-controlled (A&WC) trials (2002). The guidance carefully described these distinctions in an attempt to minimize the confusion between the goals of preliminary learning phases of drug development, which are inherently substantially uncertain, and the definitive inference-based phases of drug development. In this paper, in addition to discussing some aspects of adaptive designs in a confirmatory study setting, we underscore the value of adaptive designs when used in exploratory trials to improve planning of subsequent A&WC trials. One type of adaptation that is receiving attention is the re-estimation of the sample size during the course of the trial. We refer to this type of adaptation as an adaptive statistical information design. Specifically, a case example is used to illustrate how challenging it is to plan a confirmatory adaptive statistical information design. We highlight the substantial risk of planning the sample size for confirmatory trials when information is very uninformative and stipulate the advantages of adaptive statistical information designs for planning exploratory trials. Practical experiences and strategies as lessons learned from more recent adaptive design proposals will be discussed to pinpoint the improved utilities of adaptive design clinical trials and their potential to increase the chance of a successful drug development. Published 2012. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.