Measuring health-related quality of life in drug clinical trials: is it given due importance?


Aim of the review Efficacy estimations of drug clinical trials have been based on clinical measurements and survival rates. However, advances in psychometric techniques have allowed to incorporate a new dimension based on quality of life. Questionnaires aimed at measuring patients’ health status outlook, now enable us to quantify the loss of quality of life caused by disease and the improvement that can be achieved by pharmacological treatments. The Aim of this study is to make a quantitative evaluation of the use of health related quality of life (HRQL) measures in drug clinical trials. Methods A systematic review was performed, in duplicate, of the five journals with highest contribution to the ACP Journal Club, i.e. New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine and the British Medical Journal. HRQL measures were evaluated in published articles referring to drug clinical trials. Results We identified 193 articles that reported the results of clinical trials, of which 28 included QOL measures as secondary end points and two as primary end points: in total, these comprised 16% of the articles analysed. Discussion Without considering the relevance of HRQL measures as a tool in the allocation of resources, it should be included as a health outcome dimension in drug clinical trials. The absence of this evaluation in studies about chronic diseases that affects patients’ daily life activities would not be justified. Conclusions HRQL measures are not used on a regular basis in drug clinical trials that are reported in the relevant literature. Systematic incorporation of QOL measures into clinical trials would make it possible to measure the benefit obtained from drug treatments taking into account the patients’ perceptions. Moreover, it would encourage the development of prospective cost-effectiveness studies with patient recorded data in the context of clinical trials. Our findings have a direct impact on practice. Being conscious of the low use of HRQL in clinical trials, it could contribute to increase the demand for these measures by health care professionals. The manuscript is also a useful tool to identify where basic concepts about HRQL measures can be found.

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The authors thank Dr. Carlos Aguilar and Dr. Valentín del Villar (Hospital of Soria) for their valuable help in drafting this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ramón San Miguel.

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Miguel, R.S., López-González, A.M., Sanchez-Iriso, E. et al. Measuring health-related quality of life in drug clinical trials: is it given due importance?. Pharm World Sci 30, 154–160 (2008).

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  • Health related quality of life
  • Quality of life
  • Clinical trial
  • Pharmacoeconomics