Survival analysis under non-proportional hazards: investigating non-inferiority or equivalence in time-to-event data
The classical approach to analyze time-to-event data, e.g. in clinical trials, is to fit Kaplan-Meier curves yielding the treatment effect as the hazard ratio between treatment groups. Afterwards commonly a log-rank test is performed in order to investigate whether there is a difference in survival, or, depending on additional covariates, a Cox proportional hazard model is used. However, in numerous trials these approaches fail due to the presence of non-proportional hazards, resulting in difficulties of interpreting the hazard ratio and a loss of power. When considering equivalence or non-inferiority trials, the commonly performed log-rank based tests are similarly affected by a violation of this assumption. Here we propose a parametric framework to assess equivalence or non-inferiority for survival data. We derive pointwise confidence bands for both, the hazard ratio and the difference of the survival curves. Further we propose a test procedure addressing non-inferiority and equivalence by directly comparing the survival functions at certain time points or over an entire range of time. We demonstrate the validity of the methods by a clinical trial example and by numerous simulation results.