Why Were More Than 200 Subjects Required to Demonstrate the Bioequivalence of a New Formulation of Levothyroxine with an Old One?

Concordet, D and Gandia, P and Montastruc, J-L and Bousquet-Mélou, A and Lees, P and Ferran, A A and Toutain, P-L (2019) Why Were More Than 200 Subjects Required to Demonstrate the Bioequivalence of a New Formulation of Levothyroxine with an Old One? Clinical Pharmacokinetics.

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Abstract

At the request of French Regulatory Authorities, a new formulation of Levothyrox® was licensed in France in 2017, with the objective of avoiding the stability deficiencies of an existing licensed formulation. Before launching the new formulation, an average bioequivalence (ABE) trial was conducted, having enrolled 204 subjects and selected for interpretation a narrow a priori bioequivalence range of 0.90–1.11. Bioequivalence was concluded. In a previous publication, we questioned the ability of an ABE trial to guarantee the switchability within patients of the new and old levothyroxine formulations. It was suggested that the two formulations should be compared using the conceptual framework of individual bioequivalence. The present paper is a response to those claiming that, despite the fact that ABE analysis does not formally address the switchability of the two formulations, future patients will nevertheless be fully protected. The basis for this claim is that the ABE study was established in a large trial and analyzed using a stringent a priori acceptance interval of equivalence. These claims are questionable, because the use of a very large number of subjects nullifies the implicit precautionary intention of the European guideline when, for a Narrow Therapeutic Index drug, it recommends shortening the a priori acceptance interval from 0.80–1.25 to 0.90–1.11.