RWE 101 – Disease Prevalence vs Incidence

Real-world evidence (RWE), derived from real-world data (RWD), allows us to gain insights into disease prevalence and incidence outside of controlled clinical trial settings. This information plays a crucial role in shaping healthcare policies, identifying healthcare needs, directing research efforts, and improving patient care.

Disease prevalence refers to the total number of individuals in a population who have a specific disease at a given time. This includes both new (incidence) and pre-existing cases. RWE can offer a more comprehensive picture of disease prevalence by incorporating data from various sources such as electronic health records (EHRs), insurance claims data, patient registries, and more. This data is especially valuable in understanding chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, where prevalence data can reveal the burden of disease in a population, help to identify risk factors, and guide resource allocation.

Disease incidence, on the other hand, refers to the number of new cases of a disease that develop in a specific time period. Incidence data is particularly valuable in understanding infectious diseases or diseases linked to specific exposure or risk factors, like cancer or HIV/AIDS. Incidence data derived from RWD can help track disease outbreaks, identify populations at risk, and assess the effectiveness of preventative measures.

For example, using EHRs and public health databases, RWE can offer insights into the incidence of a new disease like COVID-19, track its spread, and monitor the effectiveness of public health measures in real-time.
RWE also plays a critical role in post-market surveillance of drugs and medical devices. By monitoring incidence rates of adverse events in the general population, it is possible to detect safety issues that may not have appeared during clinical trials, due to their limited size or exclusion of certain patient groups.

However, there are potential limitations to RWE including data quality, missing data, and bias in data collection. These factors should be considered while interpreting RWE for disease prevalence and incidence.

In conclusion, RWE provides a comprehensive and real-time view of disease prevalence and incidence in real-world settings, thereby informing health policy decisions, guiding research, and improving overall patient care.

Share this story...