Overcoming the Challenges of COVID-19

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Agile and inventive pandemic response augurs in future ready clinical trial management

The onset of a global health emergency set innovation engines rolling, with active participation across the clinical research spectrum to find effective solutions. There were considerable, dynamic changes to clinical trial management during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to cope with the movement restrictions and the risk of infection. Logistical challenges were rapidly solved using technological prowess and digital tools, forcing the pharmaceutical industry to view clinical trial operations in a new light.

Here are 5 landmark solutions that were woven into the existing clinical trial fabric, with agility and innovation, to strengthen processes and make it relevant to current needs and beyond.

1. Accelerated trials to market lifesaving drugs faster

When scientists began the process of developing a vaccine against COVID-19 in early 2020, the fastest vaccine that had been developed till then was the mumps vaccine in 4 years during the early 1960s. However, on Dec. 2, 2020, the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in less than a year. The development of vaccines for COVID-19 showed that the process could be accelerated, without any compromise on safety.

2. Decentralized trials to circumvent disruptions

The move towards decentralized clinical trials (DCTs) was an effort that helped bridge the logistic nightmare posed due to COVID-19 mediated restrictions and paved the way for patient-centric measures. The CAGR for drug-based interventional DCTs was 7% between the years 2014 to 2019, while during the COVID-19 pandemic it grew to 77% between the latter half of 2019 and in 2020.1

3. Patient centricity to improve participation

According to Global Data, 67.3% of trial disruption that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was due to suspended patient enrolment, while 14.4% of trial disruption was due to slow patient enrolment.2 This highlights the need for improved patient engagement through innovation in clinical trials, like the use of e-consent forms and electronic health records (EHR).

4. Telemedicine to ensure trial continuity

With the global pandemic posing unprecedented challenges in movement, telemedicine aided in improved connectivity and engagement with clinical trial participants. Telehealth companies have reported an over 800% increase in telehealth app downloads during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The Global telemedicine market is expected to rise at nearly 38% CAGR, from $38.7 billion in 2020 to an expected $191.7 billion in 2025.

5. Technology-driven support to ensure risk mitigation

Certain elements in clinical trials existed long before COVID-19 but their use and benefits have resulted in such vital tools becoming permanent fixtures. Navitas Life Sciences’ OneClinical® Analytics platform is an artificial intelligence tool that has been shown to reduce clinical trial monitoring costs by 50% while bringing down cycle time by 30%.3 The near-real-time data insights gained from such tools aid in taking proactive corrective action helps resolve critical clinical trial issues at the onset, allowing intelligent deployment of resources.

The future of clinical trials promises to be more patient-centric and is peppered with innovation to bring down the time and cost needed to deliver drugs to the market efficiently.

1. F. Gao, et al., Why Decentralized Clinical Trials Are the Way of the Future, 2021, April 5, Applied Clinical Trials
2. 67.3% of clinical trials disrupted by COVID-19 are due to enrollment suspension, 2020, August 21, GlobalData
3. Navitas Life Sciences, https://www.navitaslifesciences.com/oneclinical-eclinical-solution