An estimated 80% of non-COVID-19 trials were paused or cancelled as a result of the pandemic. That means that 1000s of trials and drug developments have been affected since March 2020 with even more patients taking part in these research trials also being impacted.
In our previous blog, we introduced the concept of decentralised clinical trials (DCTs) and how COVID-19 accelerated their necessity and acceptance. In this follow-up piece, we’ll outline some of the benefits of this patient-centric and remote focused approach to – what was and had been for many years – a traditional in-person model.
1 – Access to a broader pool of patients
It’s estimated that 70% of patients live at least 2 hours from a research site and in 50% of trials, “potential participants are widely dispersed or have difficulty staying enrolled due to poor health”.
Those participating in interventional human clinical trials are people. They’ll potentially be juggling taking part with working, running a home, looking after loved ones and potentially, a pre-existing illness and any or all related stress caused by it. When you cut out the travel time and increase the ease for which a participant can integrate being part of a clinical trial into their daily life, you’re opening the trial up to a far broader and greater pool of patients.
It also enables patients to continue being a part of the trial and helping to reduce drop-out numbers. 85% of clinical trials failing to recruit and retain enough patients in order to meet their enrolment timeline and 19% are terminated due to failure to reach expected enrolment; if you’re trial is easier for people to be a part of, then it’s reasonable to assume that you’ll have lower drop-our rates and potentially, higher enrolments.
Furthermore, in our 2021 research, 90% of life sciences organisations were continuing to face challenges when running clinical trials with recruiting patients being a key concern.
Sequentially, your trial will have access to more diverse and inclusive demographics, in turn broadening its scope. According to Pharma Voice, “people from geographies far away from trial sites, those with complex work schedules and those reliant on caregivers for transportation are able to participant in trials since interactions can be completed while the participant is at home.”
2 – Improved cost efficiencies
Between 2021 and 2028, the global clinical trials market is expected to grow at 5.7% per year but despite this, the clinical trials process is being held back by costly, inefficient and logistically demanding processes.
Most likely, the key cost efficiency to be made is the reduction in site costs – regardless of whether you’re operating a fully remote or hybrid trial. One source claims the cost could be reduced by approximately 40% by removing travel costs of patients.
In accordance with reduced site costs comes decreased admin costs. If you don’t need to have a site, then you won’t need to factor in budget for the time of admin and clinical staff.
Future-proofing your trial against future upheavals will ensure you’ll be able to continue and meet drug development deadlines rather than risk being paused or cancelled.
3 – Increased patient engagement
A recent McKinsey report claimed, “the clinical-trial industry has a unique opportunity to move toward a new patient- and site-centric paradigm, making participation more accessible, convenient, and sustainable for patients and physicians.”
As mentioned, clinical trials often suffer from low retention rates of patients. Making the process a more seamless integration into their daily life can go some way into increasing your retention. Following on from the previous benefits, moving towards a digital and patient-centric approach could boost interest from people looking to take part, improve the overall experience for those involved and continue to reap improved cost efficiencies.
It must be said that remote patient engagement is of course a two-way argument. On the one hand, reduced F2F contact may result in missed opportunity for discussion and decreased rapport between patient and trial site. It’s up to those behind devising clinical trials to weigh up the pros and cons of this this but from what we are witnessing so far over the last 12 months, DCTs offer far greater benefits just as long as the infrastructure, collection of data and all other associated admin are planned for (we’ll be looking into this for you in our next piece).
In the ‘Virtual Trials & The State of Clinical Research’, it was discovered that 82% of clinical trial professionals polled stated that their organisations are incorporating elements of virtual clinical trials as a result of the pandemic.
Of course there a few more benefits and challenges in adopting a decentralised approach to clinical trials, but with the market size estimated to be worth $69.3 billion by 2028, looking to continue modernising and transforming the way this industry is run is paramount in ensuring its long-term innovation, profitability and patient experience, to continue having a positive impact on global health.
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