Understanding the Use of Composite Endpoints in Clinical Trials
- Author(s): McCoy, C. Eric;
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2018.4.38383
Clinicians, institutions, healthcare networks, and policymakers use outcomes reported in clinical trials as the basis for medical decision-making when managing individual patients or populations. Therefore, the choice of a valid primary endpoint is crucial for randomized controlled trials (RCT) to demonstrate efficacy of new therapies. Recent improvements in treatment, however, have led to a decline in the morbidity and mortality of several common diseases, resulting in a reduction in relevant outcomes that can be used as clinical trial endpoints. Composite endpoints have been used as a solution to maintain the feasibility of RCTs, particularly when facing low event rates, high cost, and long follow-up. However, the benefits of using composite endpoints must be weighed against the risks of misinterpretation by clinicians and policymakers, as incorrect interpretation may have a detrimental effect on patients and populations. This paper defines a composite endpoint, discusses the rationale for its use, and provides a practical approach to interpreting results to aid in medical decision-making.