Biolex reveals ePRO surprise; selection process

Biolex CEO Jan Turek notes something unforeseen in the ePRO element of the company's recent trial of a hepatitis C treatment: The degree of difference in reports of side-effect severity in the weekly case report forms completed by clinicians versus the daily ePRO accounts of trial volunteers. Some 85 percent of reports by doctors describe mild side-effects, whereas the volunteers reporting electronically most often rated the severity as moderate or severe.

It was "a surprise to us and our key opinion leaders," Turek says in a phone interview. "It brought home the need for patient reports to be taken more seriously."

Findings from the trial do, however, reflect commonality between the reporting media types in the trial's side-effect result--a statistically significant 40 to 50 percent drop in the frequency and severity of flu-like symptoms for the 480-microgram dose of Biolex's Locteron compared with the PEG-Intron control.

Researchers were tracking the flu-like symptoms as a means of comparing the treatments in the Phase IIb trial. "What you measure drives how you gather data," explains Biolex CFO Dale Sander in the interview. Investigators as well as the key opinion leaders thought ePRO fit the bill. The side-effect data collected through the ePRO system are considered supplemental to the reports taken during weekly clinic visits.

Biolex used an ePRO system from Unithink in the global trial. Among the key factors in its choice was the system's ability to instantaneously receive reports and capture them in the EDC system, rather than a set-up that involves reporting and later docking and uploading, says Amy Rigney, clinical ops director. "That was a differentiator."

Another was ease of patient use. "We wanted to be sure the ePRO system was programmed for several languages." Also, ePRO/EDC set-up allowed trial volunteers to report side effects via cellphone or laptop. "It didn't force the issue one way or the other," she says.

Biolex evaluated available ePRO systems in 2008 and had several months of discussions involving investigators, the data management group, and the clinical group. The company's IT team participated throughout the process to ensure overall systems compatibility, says Rigney, including the final selection of Unithink.  

"Volunteers' recall and ability to assess a side effect is better when they are entering the data simultaneous with the event," she says. "You're getting it unfiltered."