1 Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland.
2 Division of Hepatology, University Hospital Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.
3 Health Management, School of Law and Economics, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany.
4 Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University Health Network and University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
5 Leberhilfe Projekt gUG, Dülken Straße 9, 51143 Köln, Germany.
6 Metabolic Liver Research Program, I. Department of Medicine, University Medical Center Mainz, Langenbeckstrasse 1, 55116 Mainz, Germany.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: There is currently no data on physician preferences regarding future therapies for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH); this study explores these preferences and characteristics that are relevant to physician decision-making when choosing a potential therapy for a patient with NASH. The results were compared with those from a similar patient preference survey which was conducted in parallel.
METHOD: Initial exploratory 30-minute telephone interviews were conducted to inform the design of a 15-minute quantitative online specialist physicians survey, containing direct questions and a preference survey. This was based on a best-worst scaling (BWS) experiment to assess the relative importance of different treatment characteristics (attributes), followed by several paired comparison questions to understand the preference for 5 hypothetical product profiles.
RESULTS: The answers come from 121 physicians from Canada (n = 31), Germany (n = 30), the UK (n = 30) and the USA (n = 30). The primary driving element in NASH treatment decision-making was efficacy (49.23%), defined as "[hypothetical product] impact on liver status" and "[slowing of] progression to cirrhosis". Physicians reported the common use of non-invasive NASH diagnostic tests and 81% reported performing liver biopsy. In 57% of cases, physicians reported that "concerns related to the available diagnostic methods" limit the number of patients with biopsy-confirmed NASH.
CONCLUSIONS: This first physician preference study reveals that efficacy will be the main driver for physicians in selecting future NASH drugs. The findings also confirm the widespread use of non-invasive diagnostic tests and the reluctance to perform confirmatory liver biopsy despite guideline recommendations, mainly due to limited therapeutic options and patient refusal.
LAY SUMMARY: This study explores physician preferences in relation to future therapies for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and characteristics that are relevant to physician decision-making when choosing a potential therapy for a patient with NASH. The results of a short online survey completed by 121 specialist physicians determined that the primary factor that influences treatment decision-making is efficacy, and that a wide range of non-invasive techniques are used to diagnose NASH, while confirmatory liver biopsy is not performed by all physicians despite guideline recommendations.