Covariate Model Building in Nonlinear Mixed Effects Models

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Population pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK-PD) models can be fitted using nonlinear mixed effects modelling (NONMEM). This is an efficient way of learning about drugs and diseases from data collected in clinical trials. Identifying covariates which explain differences between patients is important to discover patient subpopulations at risk of sub-therapeutic or toxic effects and for treatment individualization. Stepwise covariate modelling (SCM) is commonly used to this end. The aim of the current thesis work was to evaluate SCM and to develop alternative approaches. A further aim was to develop a mechanistic PK-PD model describing fasting plasma glucose, fasting insulin, insulin sensitivity and beta-cell mass.The lasso is a penalized estimation method performing covariate selection simultaneously to shrinkage estimation. The lasso was implemented within NONMEM as an alternative to SCM and is discussed in comparison with that method. Further, various ways of incorporating information and propagating knowledge from previous studies into an analysis were investigated. In order to compare the different approaches, investigations were made under varying, replicated conditions. In the course of the investigations, more than one million NONMEM analyses were performed on simulated data. Due to selection bias the use of SCM performed poorly when analysing small datasets or rare subgroups. In these situations, the lasso method in NONMEM performed better, was faster, and additionally validated the covariate model. Alternatively, the performance of SCM can be improved by propagating knowledge or incorporating information from previously analysed studies and by population optimal design.A model was also developed on a physiological/mechanistic basis to fit data from three phase II/III studies on the investigational drug, tesaglitazar. This model described fasting glucose and insulin levels well, despite heterogeneous patient groups ranging from non-diabetic insulin resistant subjects to patients with advanced diabetes. The model predictions of beta-cell mass and insulin sensitivity were well in agreement with values in the literature.