When the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a near standstill, the clinical trials industry, like so many others, was forced to choose between radically rethinking its delivery models or ceasing operation until the storm had passed. While there was no universal approach across the sector, innovation was often the order of the day, especially for companies involved in the race for a vaccine.
As we now appear to be in the midst of a transition to endemicity, it feels right to look back and question whether some of the changes to working practices ushered in by the pandemic are set to be a permanent feature of the landscape as many predicted. Our updated whitepaper ‘Has Covid-19 revolutionized the clinical trials supply chain?’ discusses whether the revolution mooted by many has come to pass or if we seem destined to slip back into old habits.
For example, direct-to-patient delivery had been under consideration for many years before the pandemic, however, logistical hurdles and the challenges around monitoring and adherence had discouraged most sponsors from making it a reality. During the pandemic when facing few other options, more companies took a leap of faith, shifting to decentralized trial delivery, rethinking their production models and leveraging the latest technology to assist with remote monitoring and adherence. With research indicating that investment in clinical trial technologies could deliver net financial returns of up to fourteen times the upfront investment*, it seems that this leap of faith has been rewarded, and it’s easy to understand why some industry surveys show that 76% of respondents intend to offer direct-to-patient trial designs in the future**.
Furthermore, through the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, the industry demonstrated that trials can be conducted in unprecedented time without compromises to patient safety, with the first vaccines being granted regulatory approval after just 10 months. While sponsors were facing record demand, with governments across the world clamoring for a vaccine and willing to place orders for millions of vials on the eve of phase III trials beginning, expectations have now been reset. Ultimately, the genie is now out of the bottle, and it is going to be increasingly hard to justify taking five to ten years to go from molecule to market. Surely that’s a revolution in anyone’s book?