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Methods of sample size calculation in descriptive retrospective burden of illness studies

By Karissa M. Johnston, Pardis Lakzadeh, Bonnie M. K. Donato and Shelagh M. Szabo


Abstract Background Observational burden of illness studies are used in pharmacoepidemiology to address a variety of objectives, including contextualizing the current treatment setting, identifying important treatment gaps, and providing estimates to parameterize economic models. Methodologies such as retrospective chart review may be utilized in settings for which existing datasets are not available or do not include sufficient clinical detail. While specifying the number of charts to be extracted and/or determining whether the number that can feasibly extracted will be clinically meaningful is an important study design consideration, there is a lack of rigorous methods available for sample size calculation in this setting. The objective of this study was to develop recommended sample size calculations for use in such studies. Methods Calculations for identifying the optimal feasible sample size calculations were derived, for studies characterizing treatment patterns and medical costs, based on the ability to comprehensively observe treatments and maximize precision of resulting 95% confidence intervals. For cost outcomes, if the standard deviation is not known, the coefficient of variation cv can be used as an alternative. A case study of a chart review of advanced melanoma (MELODY) was used to characterize plausible values for cv in a real-world example. Results Across sample sizes, any treatment given with greater than 1% frequency has a high likelihood of being observed. For a sample of size 200, and a treatment given to 5% of the population, the precision of a 95% confidence interval (CI) is expected to be ±0.03. For cost outcomes, for the median cv value observed in the MELODY study (0.72), a sample size of approximately 200 would be required to generate a 95% CI precise to within ±10% of the mean. Conclusion This study presents a formal guidance on sample size calculations for retrospective burden of illness studies. The approach presented here is methodologically rigorous and designed for practical application in real-world retrospective chart review studies

Topics: Pharmacoepidemiology, Epidemiology, Public health, Medicine (General), R5-920
Publisher: BMC
Year: 2019
DOI identifier: 10.1186/s12874-018-0657-9
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