COVID spurs growth in use of decentralized clinical trials

COVID Disrupts Clinical Trials Industry, Spurs Growth in Use of Decentralized Clinical Trials

COVID disrupted a wide array of businesses, and the clinical trials industry was no exception. Around the globe, we saw an unprecedented number of trials on the brink of collapse, as consumers’ fears of exposure to the virus delayed, cancelled or, at minimum, complicated scheduled onsite clinical research.

To the rescue came decentralized trials which, by no means new, received renewed interest because of their ability to circumvent the challenges of getting would-be participants to leave their homes and enhance patient recruitment. As a result of the COVID pandemic, PCM Trials saw a three-fold increase in the number of RFPs it received in 2020 vs. 2019. A recognized leader in the field of mobile research trials, PCM Trials was a logical go-to source for pharmaceutical companies and CROs eager to complete clinical trials despite the challenges of worldwide pandemic.

Interest in Decentralized Clinical Trials Likely to Grow

Nearly overnight, trial sponsors that never before considered mobile trial designs for clinical research or which dabbled in it only when absolutely necessary, were rethinking their approaches and embracing the concept of decentralized trials. And while COVID certainly served as the accelerator for such interest, there are growing indications that this unprecedented demand will likely not wane much post-COVID.

Demand has continued to be strong throughout the first part of 2021, fueled largely by the well-sung results of decentralized trials conducted in 2020.  In the case of PCM Trials, for example, we were able to complete more than 99% of our trial visits in-window throughout the pandemic. Such stellar results allowed for an unmatched number of clinical trials to be rescued, making way for life-altering and, in some cases, life-saving drugs to move one step closer to market.

The number of clinical trials that we rescued in 2020 was more than what we typically see and represented a myriad of situations—from trials that were about to be launched when the shutdown hit to those that were already in process and were suddenly in jeopardy of being cancelled due to an ability to retain participants.

Beyond COVID, the research industry is coming under pressure to pursue alternative clinical practices that effectively include more diverse patient populations in drug development.  Mobile technologies, as well as hybrid approaches that combine home health design, telemedicine and traditional clinical sites satisfy this requirement and support the industry’s shift to patient centricity which means trials are conducted more for the convenience and benefit of participants.

Clinical Trials Industry Benefits From an Increased Focus on Innovation

As challenging as the COVID pandemic has been for our industry, though, it’s worth noting that it has also spawned new ideas and an intense focus on innovation. PCM Trials is proud to have been a part of that innovation story. When Eli Lilly determined that the only way it could quickly complete its clinical trial of a new COVID treatment drug was to create its own mobile research clinics in customized RVs that traveled the country to long-term care senior facilities, it turned to long-time partner PCM Trials to help make that vision a reality.

We immediately mobilized our nationwide network of Certified Mobile Research Nurses (CMRNs) and flew them to those same nursing homes that were making headlines at the peak of the pandemic as being hotbeds for COVID outbreaks. This approach represented an industry first. Until then, our CMRNs had accommodated trial participants by meeting them in their homes, in their places of employment and even at their vacation destinations. Now we were in the nursing homes, setting up makeshift monitoring areas and infusion sites at what previously served as the facilities’ dining rooms or activity centers and serving a population that, historically, had little to no access to clinical trials.

This particular clinical trial again proved that, regardless of the location, quality standards and protocols can still be met. As such, it marks the beginning of a new era in clinical trial research. With so much of the industry focused on age-related health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the ability to recruit and monitor participants in nursing homes is a game-changer.

We look forward to continuing our role in bringing new drugs to the market in the most cost-effective, scientifically-sound manner.

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