Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Trials of novel agents are required to improve the care of patients with rare diseases, but trial feasibility may be uncertain due to concerns over insufficient patient numbers. We aimed to determine the size of the pool of potential participants in England 2015-2017 for trials in the autoimmune blistering skin disease bullous pemphigoid. METHODS: The size of the pool of potential participants was estimated using routinely collected healthcare data from linked primary care (Clinical Practice Research Datalink; CPRD) and secondary care (Hospital Episode Statistics; HES) databases. Thirteen consultant dermatologists were surveyed to determine the likelihood that a patient would be eligible for a trial based on the presence of cautions or contra-indications to prednisolone use. These criteria were applied to determine how they influenced the potential pool of participants. RESULTS: Extrapolated to the population of England, we would expect approximately 10,800 (point estimate 10,747; 95% CI 7191 to 17,239) new cases of bullous pemphigoid to be identified in a three-year period. For a future trial involving oral prednisolone (standard care), the application of cautions to its use as exclusion criteria would result in approximately 365 potential participants unlikely to be recruited, a further 5332 could be recruited with caution, and 5104 in whom recruitment is still possible. 11-17% of potential participants may have pre-existing dementia and require an alternative consent process. CONCLUSIONS: Routinely collected electronic health records can be used to inform the feasibility of clinical trials in rare diseases, such as whether recruitment is feasible nationally and how long recruitment might take to meet recruitment targets. Future trials of bullous pemphigoid in England may use the data presented to inform trial design, including eligibility criteria and consent processes for enrolling people with dementia.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC medical research methodology

Publication Date