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Recruitment, retention, and adherence in a clinical trial: The Pediatric Heart Network's Marfan Trial experience

Hamstra, M. S.; Pemberton, V. L.; Dagincourt, N.; Hollenbeck-Pringle, D.; Trachtenberg, F. L.; Cnota, J. F.; Atz, A. M.; Cappella, E.; De Nobele, S.; Grima, J.; King, M.; Korsin, R.; Lambert, L. M.; MacNeal, M. K.; Markham, L. W.; MacCarrick, G.; Sylvester, D. M.; Walter, P.; Xu, M.; Lacro, R. V.

Clin Trials. 2020 Aug 22; 1740774520945988


BACKGROUND/AIMS: The Pediatric Heart Network Marfan Trial was a randomized trial comparing atenolol versus losartan on aortic root dilation in 608 children and young adults with Marfan syndrome. Barriers to enrollment included a limited pool of eligible participants, restrictive entry criteria, and a diverse age range that required pediatric and adult expertise. Retention was complicated by a 3-year commitment to a complex study and medication regimen. The Network partnered with the Marfan Foundation, bridging the community with the research. The aims of this study are to report protocol and medication adherence and associated predictive factors, and to describe recruitment and retention strategies. METHODS: Recruitment, retention, and adherence to protocol activities related to the primary outcome were measured. Retention was measured by percentage of enrolled participants with 3-year outcome data. Protocol adherence was calculated by completion rates of study visits, ambulatory electrocardiography (Holter monitoring), and quarterly calls. Medication adherence was assessed by the number of tablets or the amount of liquid in bottles returned. Centers were ranked according to adherence (high, medium, and low tertiles). Recruitment, retention, and adherence questionnaires were completed by sites. Descriptive statistics summarized recruitment, retention, and adherence, as well as questionnaire results. Regression modeling assessed predictors of adherence. RESULTS: Completion rates for visits, Holter monitors, and quarterly calls were 99%, 94%, and 96%, respectively. Primary outcome data at 3 years were obtained for 88% of participants. The mean percentage of medication taken was estimated at 89%. Site and age were associated with all measures of adherence. Young adult and African American participants had lower levels of adherence. Higher adherence sites employed more strategies; had more staffing resources, less key staff turnover, and more collaboration with referring providers; utilized the Foundation's resources; and used a greater number of strategies to recruit, retain, and promote protocol and medication adherence. CONCLUSION: Overall adherence was excellent for this trial conducted within a National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trial network. Strategies specifically targeted to young adults and African Americans may have been beneficial. Many strategies employed by higher adherence sites are ones that any site could easily use, such as greeting families at non-study hospital visits, asking for family feedback, providing calendars for tracking schedules, and recommending apps for medication reminders. Additional key learnings include adherence differences by age, race, and site, the value of collaborative learning, and the importance of partnerships with patient advocacy groups. These lessons could shape recruitment, retention, and adherence to improve the quality of future complex trials involving rare conditions.

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