Prophylaxis in healthcare workers during a pandemic: a model for a multi-centre international randomised controlled trial using Bayesian analyses.
Bruce P., Ainscough K., Hatter L., Braithwaite I., Berry LR., Fitzgerald M., Hills T., Brickell K., Cosgrave D., Semprini A., Morpeth S., Berry S., Doran P., Young P., Beasley R., Nichol A.
BackgroundCoronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has exposed the disproportionate effects of pandemics on frontline workers and the ethical imperative to provide effective prophylaxis. We present a model for a pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT) that utilises Bayesian methods to rapidly determine the efficacy or futility of a prophylactic agent.MethodsWe initially planned to undertake a multicentre, phase III, parallel-group, open-label RCT, to determine if hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) taken once a week was effective in preventing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection in healthcare workers (HCW) aged ≥ 18 years in New Zealand (NZ) and Ireland. Participants were to be randomised 2:1 to either HCQ (800 mg stat then 400 mg weekly) or no prophylaxis. The primary endpoint was time to Nucleic Acid Amplification Test-proven SARS-CoV-2 infection. Secondary outcome variables included mortality, hospitalisation, intensive care unit admissions and length of mechanical ventilation. The trial had no fixed sample size or duration of intervention. Bayesian adaptive analyses were planned to occur fortnightly, commencing with a weakly informative prior for the no prophylaxis group hazard rate and a moderately informative prior on the intervention log hazard ratio centred on 'no effect'. Stopping for expected success would be executed if the intervention had a greater than 0.975 posterior probability of reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection by more than 10%. Final success would be declared if, after completion of 8 weeks of follow-up (reflecting the long half-life of HCQ), the prophylaxis had at least a 0.95 posterior probability of reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection by more than 10%. Futility would be declared if HCQ was shown to have less than a 0.10 posterior probability of reducing acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection by more than 20%.DiscussionThis study did not begin recruitment due to the marked reduction in COVID-19 cases in NZ and concerns regarding the efficacy and risks of HCQ treatment in COVID-19. Nonetheless, the model presented can be easily adapted for other potential prophylactic agents and pathogens, and pre-established collaborative models like this should be shared and incorporated into future pandemic preparedness planning.Trial registrationThe decision not to proceed with the study was made before trial registration occurred.