Almac Group survey reveals pandemic impact on clinical trial activity

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A new annual survey from global biopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing organisation Almac Group has provided insight into how companies are managing their clinical trial programs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As the pandemic really started to take hold, we were hearing anecdotal feedback from our customers that trials and R&D programs were being delayed so we immediately sought more quantitative data on this," said Kevin Reid, Almac Group global vice president of marketing.

Almac said the results revealed 31 per cent of respondents said there had been no impact and that it was "business as usual". However, 38 per cent said it would take between two and four months before their company would return to pre-COVID levels of ongoing clinical trial activity. The remaining respondents said it would be six months or longer.

The survey also found there was little difference in terms of company type but clinical research organisations were less optimistic, with almost half (47 per cent) predicting it would take six months or longer to return to pre-COVID activity.

It was a "relatively similar" outcome on starting new clinical trials, said Almac, with 25 per cent of respondents saying there had been no impact while 36 per cent said it would take two to four months for their company to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Once again, clinical trial organisations were more cautious, with 59 per cent saying a return to pre-pandemic levels of new trial starts would take six months or longer.

Almac said even before the pandemic there had been significant discussion on the potential benefit of conducting trial remotely.

"The rapidly changing circumstances naturally increased the need for new tools to allow this to happen, as well as accelerating the propensity to adopt these approaches," it said.

Its survey sound that as of June 2020, 41 per cent of respondents said that accelerated adoption of technology to allow virtual interactions with patients had already impacted their clinical development model and it was clear that other modifications, such as protocol design modifications and stricter site evaluation criteria, were also being made to try and allow the continuation of clinical trials within the changing environment.