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Clinical trials in children and adolescents with systemic lupus erythematosus: methodological aspects, regulatory landscape and future opportunities


Childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) is rare in many regions of the world, including Europe. Access to approved medications for cSLE is currently limited, among others, due to a lack of high-quality evidence from clinical trials. The objectives of the study were to evaluate the current regulatory framework regarding medication approvals, delineate barriers to clinical trial conduct, and strategies to improve access to new medications for cSLE. Relevant methodological and regulatory aspects, epidemiological data, study designs and outcome measures are reviewed, and the results of a survey among Paediatric Rheumatology International Trials Organisation/Pediatric Rheumatology Collaborative Study Group investigators are presented. Laws and regulations in the USA and Europe necessitate that novel medicines are studied in paediatric populations, if similar or the same diseases in adults have been found to benefit from them. Regulatory agencies consider cSLE the paediatric form of SLE in adults. For medicines that have been found safe and effective in adult SLE, paediatric extrapolation strategies can limit the number and complexity of studies needed to support the labelling of these medicines for use in cSLE. In this setting, specialised research networks, validated outcome measures, stakeholder input, study designs as well as statistical methods successfully used in other uncommon diseases will help improve study efficiency in an effort to enhance the speed with which new drugs for cSLE can be studied. Open-label pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic studies are preferred by paediatric rheumatologists over double-blind parallel designs for cSLE trials. Appropriate infrastructure, outcome measures and sufficient numbers of patients are available for the testing of new medicines for children with cSLE.

  • childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus
  • European medicines agency
  • US food and drug administration
  • extrapolation
  • clinical trials

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