HARmonized Protocol Template to Enhance Reproducibility of Hypothesis Evaluating Real-World Evidence Studies on Treatment Effects

Published Oct 2022


Wang SV, Pottegård A, Crown WH, et al. HARmonized Protocol Template to Enhance Reproducibility of Hypothesis Evaluating Real-World Evidence Studies on Treatment Effects: A Good Practices Report of a Joint ISPE/ISPOR Task Force. Value Health. 2022; 25(10):1663–1672.


Objectives: Ambiguity in communication of key study parameters limits the utility of real-world evidence (RWE) studies in healthcare decision-making. Clear communication about data provenance, design, analysis, and implementation is needed. This would facilitate reproducibility, replication in independent data, and assessment of potential sources of bias.

Methods: The International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology (ISPE) and ISPOR–The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR) convened a joint task force, including representation from key international stakeholders, to create a harmonized protocol template for RWE studies that evaluate a treatment effect and are intended to inform decision-making. The template builds on existing efforts to improve transparency and incorporates recent insights regarding the level of detail needed to enable RWE study reproducibility. The over-arching principle was to reach
for sufficient clarity regarding data, design, analysis, and implementation to achieve 3 main goals. One, to help investigators thoroughly consider, then document their choices and rationale for key study parameters that define the causal question (e.g., target estimand), two, to facilitate decision-making by enabling reviewers to readily assess potential for biases related to these choices, and three, to facilitate reproducibility.

Strategies to Disseminate and Facilitate Use: Recognizing that the impact of this harmonized template relies on uptake, we have outlined a plan to introduce and pilot the template with key international stakeholders over the next 2 years.

Conclusion: The HARmonized Protocol Template to Enhance Reproducibility (HARPER) helps to create a shared understanding of intended scientific decisions through a common text, tabular and visual structure. The template provides a set of core recommendations for clear and reproducible RWE study protocols and is intended to be used as a backbone throughout the research process from developing a valid study protocol, to registration, through implementation and reporting on those
implementation decisions.

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