Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A good joint statistical meetings week

While I was not particularly enthralled with the location, I found this years Joint Statistical Meetings to be very good. By about 5 pm yesterday, I thought it was going to be so-so. There were good presentations on adaptive trials and Bayesian clinical trials, and even a few possible answers to some serious concerns I have about noninferiority trials. Last night I went to the biopharmaceutical section business meeting, and struck up conversations with a few people from the industry and the FDA (including the speaker who had some ideas on how to improve noninferiority trials). And shy, bashful me who had to drink 3 glasses of wine a couple of years ago to get up the courage to approach a (granted rather famous) colleague was one of the last ones to leave the mixer.

This morning, I was still feeling a little burned out, but decided to drag myself to a section on Bayesian trials in medical devices. I found the speakers (which came from both industry and FDA) top notch, and at the end the session turned into a very nice dialog on the CDRH draft guidance.

I then went to a session on interacting with the FDA in a medical device setting, and again speakers from both the FDA and industry were top notch. Again, the talks turned into very good discussions about how to most effectively communicate with the FDA, especially from a statistician/statistical consultant's point of view. I asked the question of how to handle the situation where, though it's not in the best interest, a sponsor wants to kick the statistical consults out of the FDA interactions. The answer: speak the sponsor's language, which is in dollars. Quite frankly, statistics is a major part of any clinical development plan, and unless the focus is specifically on chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC), a statistician needs to be present for any contact with the FDA. (In a few years, it might be true for CMC as well.) If this is not the case, especially if it's consistently not the case throughout the development cycle of the product, the review can be delayed, and time is money. Other great questions were asked on use of software and submission of data. We all got an idea of what is required statistically in a medical device submission.

After lunch was a session given by the section on graphics and International Biometric Society (West N America Region). Why it wasn't cosponsored by biopharmaceutical, I'll never know. The talks were all about using graphs to understand effects of drugs, and how to use graphs to effectively support a marketing application or medical publication. The underlying message was get out of the 60's line printer era with the illegible statistical tables, and take advantage of new tools available. Legibility is key in producing a graph, followed by the ability to present a large amount of data in a small area. In some cases, many dimensions can be included on a graph, so that the human eye can spot potential complex relationships among variables. Some companies, notably big pharma, are far ahead in this arena. (I guess they have well-paid talent to work on this kind of stuff.)

These were three excellent sessions, and worth demanding more of my aching feet. Now I'm physically tired and ready to chill with my family for the rest of the week/weekend before doing "normal" work on Monday. But professionally, I'm refreshed.