Is There Proof that CRO and Sponsor Strategic Alliances Save Costs and Add Value?

Applied Clinical Trials

If you listen to my video round-up of CBI’s Sponsor/CRO System and Business Process Integration forum, you can hear about some of the companies that spoke and trends in outsourcing relationships with their CROs. The delegates were very interested and engaged in the presentations, and the conversations were interactive and educational.

Another highlight of the conference was the Roundtable Discussions, where the group discussed and voted on a variety of topics that came up during the meeting. One question, “Do Strategic Alliances Save Money?” brought up a divided vote among the mostly pharmaceutical-based attendees.

The majority of the group agreed that, yes, these alliances do save money…in the long run. They conceded that there initially are high costs. As the relationship matures, costs are expected to go down as the CRO learns and refines the processes that can bring the sponsor efficiencies. However, the question was how long is the “long run?” And what if the alliances turns out not be the right partner or the right fit? The group wondered if there was published data on the cost effectiveness or value of strategic partnerships.

Coincidentally, we currently have an article in our peer-review process that takes the stance that strategic partnerships do not add value in clinical trial outsourcing. The problem is that one criteria for which a peer-review article is judged is if the article’s points are supported by data and references. As one reviewer pointed out, there is a lack of hard data or published data to support either side of this argument. And that is where the article currently resides, in a debate among the peer-reviewers over whether it should be published for its value to the readers as a topic for debate or dialogue, or not be published because, without hard data, it is purely opinion and conjecture.

As the speakers gave their presentations, it was clear that not one sponsor relies on just one CRO in a strategic alliance and those in attendance favor a hybrid approach. Most had nothing but positives to say about their CRO providers. But they also noted that CROs need to be trained appropriately and the governance structure is essential.