Clinical Trial Data Visualization: The New FDA Guideline on Standard Formats for Tables and Figures

By Beaconcure | Jul 5, 2023

Clinical trial data visualization plays a pivotal role in effectively communicating the results of drug trials to regulatory agencies like the FDA. However, inconsistencies in the format and presentation of safety data can hinder the interpretation and evaluation of crucial information by FDA reviewers.

The new FDA guideline seeks to address this issue by establishing a standardized framework that ensures clear, concise, and easily interpretable tables and figures.

In this article, we will explore how the new guidelines impact data validation and presentation, the positive changes in our pursuit of compliance, and the challenges that companies may face in implementing these guidelines.  

How The New FDA Guidelines Impact Medical and Drug Developer Companies

In 2022, the FDA released new guidelines on clinical trial data visualization standards for tables and figures. The new guidelines not only provide standardized methods for presenting crucial information but also include instructions on reporting FDA medical queries (FMQs). 

By introducing these standard formats, the FDA aims to enhance the clarity and consistency of clinical trial data visualization, thereby facilitating the review process and promoting better communication between medical and drug developer companies and regulatory authorities.

The new FDA guideline on clinical trial data visualization standards for tables and figures has significant implications for medical and drug developer companies.

The three key areas impacted by the new guidelines are on assurance efforts, company internal work standards, and, programming  

Requirement for Extra Assurance to Comply

Companies now face the challenge of ensuring their data presentation aligns with the specified formats outlined in the FDA guideline. This necessitates extra efforts to validate and verify the accuracy of the data being presented.

Companies must invest resources and expertise to ensure compliance and avoid potential setbacks during the regulatory review.

Implications for Company Standards 

The introduction of standardized formats affects various company standards, such as the Statistical Analysis Plan (SAP) and Mock shells. These standards must be revised and aligned with the new FDA guidelines to ensure consistency and compatibility in data presentation.

Companies will need to update their internal procedures and provide appropriate training to personnel involved in data analysis and reporting.

Impact on Programming Efforts 

To adhere to the new guidelines, companies must adjust their programming practices to meet the requirements for table formats and FMQ implementation. Statistical programmers must adapt their programming codes and scripts to generate tables and figures that adhere to the standardized formats.

This may involve developing new macros or modifying existing ones to ensure accurate representation of data.

The additional programming efforts and potential learning curve can impact project timelines and resource allocation.

Positive Outcomes from the new FDA guideline on ST&F 

The new guidelines provide several advantages to medical and drug developer companies. Compliance with the new guidelines enhances the interpretation of data, streamlines regulatory interactions, and improves in-company compliance and standardization.

Enhanced Interpretation and Review Process

Compliance with the standardized formats ensures that clinical trial safety data is presented in a clear and consistent manner. This enhances the interpretation of data by FDA reviewers, reducing the chances of misinterpretation and facilitating a more efficient review process.

Submissions that adhere to the guidelines provide a common language for communication and understanding between companies and regulatory authorities.

Streamlined Regulatory Interactions and Timelines 

By following the standardized formats, companies can reduce the likelihood of requests for additional information from FDA reviewers. Clear and concise tables and figures enable a comprehensive understanding of the data, minimizing the need for back-and-forth communication.

This streamlines the regulatory interactions and can potentially lead to shorter review timelines, expediting the approval process for new drugs.

Improved In-Company Compliance and Standardization 

The introduction of standardized formats promotes consistency within medical and drug developer companies. All departments and therapeutic areas within the organization are required to comply with the same standard.

This reduces variability in data presentation and fosters in-company compliance to industry standards. The standardized formats facilitate seamless data comparisons and analysis across studies and trials within the organization.

Implementation Challenges

There are a number of challenges that companies may encounter when implementing the new FDA guideline. Successfully addressing these challenges requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including statistical programmers, data analysts, and others.

Companies must invest in training, develop clear processes, and allocate sufficient resources to overcome these challenges effectively

Low Awareness of FMQs within the Company 

FMQs, being a new component introduced in the guideline, may not be well-understood or familiar to all stakeholders within the company. There may be a need for education and training initiatives to raise awareness about FMQs and their significance in the reporting process.

This will enable effective implementation and integration of FMQs into the data presentation and submission workflows.

Establishing a Consistent Approach to Algorithmic FMQs 

Algorithmic FMQs involve MedDRA preferred terms (PTs) as well as out-of-range safety lab parameters, presenting a challenge in terms of developing a consistent approach.

Companies will need to establish robust algorithms and programming methodologies to generate accurate and reliable algorithmic FMQs. Consistency in the identification and reporting of algorithmic FMQs is crucial to ensure uniformity and comparability across submissions.

Additional Resources and Time Requirements 

Compliance with the new guidelines may necessitate additional resources, both in terms of personnel and infrastructure. Companies may need to allocate extra programming resources to implement the standardized formats and generate tables and figures accordingly.

Moreover, time will be required for the adaptation and integration of the guidelines into existing processes. Companies should carefully plan and allocate resources to address these additional demands effectively.

Awareness of Changes in FMQs 

FMQs are subject to change over time, as updates and revisions to the guidelines or regulatory requirements occur. This introduces a dynamic element that companies must consider.

Regular monitoring of regulatory updates and proactive adaptation to changes in FMQ requirements will be essential to maintain compliance and avoid potential delays in submissions.

Mapping Multiple MedDRA Preferred Terms (PTs) in FMQs 

FMQs may involve mapping multiple MedDRA preferred terms (PTs) to a single query. The complexity arises when the same PT is included in more than one FMQ, necessitating a careful approach to avoid confusion and ensure accurate reporting.

Companies must develop mapping strategies and processes that can handle these complex relationships and maintain consistency in FMQ reporting.

Alignment and Maintenance of Output 

Ensuring alignment between FMQs and the corresponding output in tables and figures requires attention to detail and robust validation processes.

Companies must establish comprehensive validation procedures to verify that the reported FMQs are correctly reflected in the visual representations of the data. Ongoing maintenance and updates to ensure alignment with evolving FMQ requirements will be necessary as well.

Enhance Clinical Trial Data Visualization and Compliance with Beaconcure

The new FDA guideline on standard formats for tables and figures establishes a standardized framework for clinical trial data visualization and reporting FDA medical queries (FMQs).

While implementing these guidelines may pose challenges, companies can benefit from improved interpretation by FDA reviewers, streamlined regulatory interactions, and enhanced in-company compliance. 

To simplify and automate clinical data validation processes, including tables and figures, companies can leverage Beaconcure and ensure compliance with the standardized formats outlined by the FDA.

Beaconcure reduces the burden on statistical programmers while enhancing overall efficiency, allowing companies to focus on strategic decision-making and expedite regulatory submissions.

In conclusion, the FDA’s new guideline on standard formats for tables and figures brings standardization and clarity to clinical trial data visualization. By embracing these guidelines and addressing challenges, companies can streamline regulatory interactions, improve data interpretation, and foster in-company compliance

Adopting advanced technologies like Beaconcure empowers companies to simplify clinical data validation processes and support regulatory submissions effectively.

As drug development evolves, adherence to standardized guidelines and utilization of advanced technologies are crucial for navigating regulatory requirements and ensuring efficient delivery of safe and effective drugs to the market.