COVID-19: Competition for 'medical supplies' and clinical trials impacted

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The Australian and global situation regarding medicines and medical supplies continues to evolve as companies are now confronting the impact of COVID-19 on clinical trials.

The federal parliament passed legislation late Monday enabling the implementation of the government's latest economic stimulus package.

The legislation has set aside $40 billion for finance minister Mathias Cormann as an 'advance' to fund as yet 'unforeseen expenditure' like the purchase of medical supplies.

Any sittings of parliament have been suspended until August. Scheduled sitting weeks in March, May and June have been cancelled.

Health minister Greg Hunt also confirmed the fierce global competition for medical supplies with Australia seeking 300 million face masks. Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Minister Hunt said Australia had lost out to some 'last-minute diversions'. 

The global competition for medical supplies could extend to medicines in the months ahead, particularly if manufacturing facilities are impacted by the pandemic or disruptions to international freight. Minister Hunt may need to play a direct role in securing supplies of some critical medicines or even any treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

Lilly has also announced it will delay the start of most new clinical trials and pause enrolment in more new studies in response to COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted the global healthcare delivery system, including the conduct of clinical trials," said the company in a statement.

"Many healthcare systems have had to restructure operations to prioritize caring for those suffering from COVID-19 and limit or cease other activities. The severe burden on healthcare systems caused by this pandemic has also impaired the ability of many research sites to start new studies or enrol new patients."

"Lilly is working hard to alleviate some of the pressure that the global COVID-19 pandemic has placed on our healthcare system. We have repurposed our laboratories to conduct diagnostic testing for patients and we are researching potential therapeutics. In the interest of helping to ensure patient safety and minimizing further stress on the system, Lilly has also decided to take several proactive steps in regard to our clinical trial activities around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tim Garnett, Lilly's chief medical officer. "By delaying most new study starts and pausing enrollment of new patients or healthy volunteers in most ongoing studies, we hope to ease the burden on participating healthcare facilities and allow physicians to focus more of their efforts on combatting COVID-19."

Garnett added, "At the same time, Lilly recognizes that for patients already enrolled in clinical trials, discontinuation would disrupt their treatment and potentially diminish the societal value of the research information to which they are contributing. Therefore, we will maintain ongoing studies, but with study-by-study consideration."