Financial management of a large multisite randomized clinical trial
- Conflicts of interest: None declared.
- ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00004732
- Funding: The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (NS038384) with supplemental funding provided by Abbott Vascular (formerly Guidant).
The Carotid Revascularization Endarterectomy versus Stenting Trial (CREST) received five years' funding ($21 112 866) from the National Institutes of Health to compare carotid stenting to surgery for stroke prevention in 2500 randomized participants at 40 sites.
Herein we evaluate the change in the CREST budget from a fixed to variable-cost model and recommend strategies for the financial management of large-scale clinical trials.
Projections of the original grant's fixed-cost model were compared to the actual costs of the revised variable-cost model. The original grant's fixed-cost budget included salaries, fringe benefits, and other direct and indirect costs. For the variable-cost model, the costs were actual payments to the clinical sites and core centers based upon actual trial enrollment. We compared annual direct and indirect costs and per-patient cost for both the fixed and variable models. Differences between clinical site and core center expenditures were also calculated.
Using a variable-cost budget for clinical sites, funding was extended by no-cost extension from five to eight years. Randomizing sites tripled from 34 to 109. Of the 2500 targeted sample size, 138 (5·5%) were randomized during the first five years and 1387 (55·5%) during the no-cost extension. The actual per-patient costs of the variable model were 9% ($13 845) of the projected per-patient costs ($152 992) of the fixed model.
Performance-based budgets conserve funding, promote compliance, and allow for additional sites at modest additional cost. Costs of large-scale clinical trials can thus be reduced through effective management without compromising scientific integrity.