Survey taken by CROs and pharma/biotech companies seeks answers in maximizing partnership.
With the ever-growing trend in pharma to outsource clinical research to CROs, optimizing this partnership becomes essential for maximizing its benefits. Successful interaction among all the members of such a collaboration is key to accomplishing mutual goals. But every interaction requires skills in communication and relationship management to create a shared vision of strategic partnering and trust. Each stage of the process has its own benefits and risks, and each pain point while collaborating refers to a specific problem that relevant parties are facing.
Inefficient interaction between sponsors and CROs can hold back the quality of clinical trial data and compromise research outcome. To further analyze the specifics of the CRO-Sponsor communication, OCT Clinical, a European CRO, launched a survey among industry professionals involved in clinical trials across the US and Europe to get first-hand data from the immediate participants of such partnerships.
The survey was fielded among OCT Clinical’s customer and partner databases of over 8,000 contacts. Email invitations were sent out to fill out the survey in Microsoft Forms. As a note of appreciation, the respondents were offered Starbucks gift vouchers. The survey was split into two main categories according to the types of respondents. CROs and pharmaceutical/biotech companies. Overall, 320 respondents across both areas provided thorough replies which were further analyzed to get presented in this article. The aim of the research was to explore the CRO-Sponsor collaboration scenarios and to identify key challenges, weak points, and best practices for each group.
Purpose. Such surveys are aimed at creating a “win-win” approach for both parties. Sponsors would benefit from more robust and feasible plans, procedural efficiency, and decreased costs, while CROs would get an increasingly reliable and longer-term revenue stream by providing additional value and expanding its service offerings.
The role of CROs is becoming increasingly significant in treatment development as they become more involved in clinical research and are seen more as strategic partners, providing access not only to specialized expertise, but also to patients around the world. According to the aforementioned survey, 81% of respondents indicated CRO-sponsor relationships as 'Very Important' or 'Important' in pharmaceutical research. From the table below we can see that almost 87 % of respondents among Sponsors believe that “meeting project timelines on time” is the number one criteria for evaluating CRO performance.
In addition, “Recruitment fails”, “not delivering according to plan” and “inefficient communication” were mentioned as the most common barriers to successful collaboration between CROs and pharma companies.
Almost 45% of the respondents graded their experience with their current CRO as moderately or completely unsatisfactory. It is worth mentioning however that, there is no apparent difference between working with a global or local CRO, since 60% of those not completely satisfied with their current partnerships work with global CROs.
Hence, one of the most critical insights is that collaboration with global industry players is not a panacea.
In response to the question: “What are the most frustrating/challenging issues when working with a clinical CRO?”, which had the option of an expanded answer, the following statement/points headed the list: quality issues (lack of understanding of therapeutic areas), recruitment issues (finding qualified sites, poor site selection) and communication issues. Illustrative examples are outlined below by expanded answers from Sponsors:
This points to the fact that better engagement and strong relationships come from transparency and trust. Once a vision with values and objectives has been established, additional aspects of the partnership and operating strategy can be defined so that both parties build trust through a combination of integrated goals, structure, resources, processes, technology, and metrics.
A separate section of the survey was devoted to the study startup challenges from the perspective of Sponsors. The most common issues here were the following:
The inaccuracies which can occur in CRO-pharma communication can go both ways. While each clinical research project is unique, CRO representatives who have also been surveyed for this article mentioned certain common challenges which originate at the Sponsors’ end. Among the top frequent concerns that the CRO representatives mentioned were: quality issues such as lack of accuracy in study designs and protocols (57% of respondents), lack of understanding of the specifics within certain therapeutic areas and indications (34%) and communication issues such as insufficient or untimely responses (23%).
Incomplete information provided by sponsors is a big barrier to successful collaboration between CROs and pharma.The challenge increases significantly when a sponsor contracts several CROs for a single project.
Below are some excerpts from the survey:
Uncertainty about responsibilities and decision authority causes major barriers to maximizing potential benefits. The following conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of this survey:
Considering the above-mentioned points will help create a “win-win” situation for both parties, with a mix of both tactical and strategic elements. The sponsor would benefit from more robust and feasible plans, process efficiencies and decreased costs, and the CRO partner would get to work on new exciting projects and secure great partnerships, by providing additional value and expanding its service offerings.
Ekaterina Bulaeva, Life Science Copywriter, and Amalia Iljasova, Marketing Manager; both with OCT Clinical