The Role of Surrogate Endpoints in the Evaluation of Efficacy and Safety of Therapeutic Interventions in Diabetes Mellitus

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The Review of Diabetic Studies,2008,5,3,128-135.
Published:November 2008
Author(s) affiliations:

Aleksandra Wieczorek1, Przemyslaw Rys1, Iwona Skrzekowska-Baran2 and Maciej Malecki3

1HTA Consulting, Krakow, Poland.

2NovoNordisk Polska, Poland.

3Department of Metabolic Diseases, Jagiellonian University College of Medicine, Krakow, Poland.


In this paper, we examine the concept of surrogate endpoints (i.e. substitute outcome measures) and review their use in clinical trials involving therapies for diabetes mellitus using the example of metformin. Trials such as DCCT and UKPDS, in which patient-important endpoints were evaluated, are relatively rare in diabetology. Clinical decisions, therefore, are often based on evidence obtained using surrogate outcomes, usually fasting or postprandial glycemia or glycated hemoglobin level. In contrast to patient-important endpoints, surrogates do not describe direct clinical benefit to the patient. However, a proven association between a surrogate and patient-important endpoint is essential to draw appropriate therapeutic conclusions. In the process of new drug development, the duration of follow-up, sample size and methodology of the studies initially available are often inadequate to demonstrate the effect of the intervention on patient-important endpoints. Evidence concerning the effect of an intervention on surrogate outcomes usually comes first, followed only later by reports describing its influence on patient-important endpoints. Metformin may serve as an example in several ways. The first publications reported beneficial effects on glycemic control and body weight. Outcomes from the subsequent UKPDS study suggested the patient-important efficacy of metformin measured as a reduction in mortality and a decrease in the incidence of diabetic complications, including myocardial infarction. This reasoning process worked for some but not all strategies. It is particularly questionable whether a change in surrogate endpoint was associated with a potential deterioration in patient- important outcomes. Defining the general relationship between surrogates widely used as measures of metabolic control and patient-important endpoints remains an important challenge in contemporary diabetology.