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The impact of Covid-19 on the Clinical Research sector

It is fair to say that Covid-19 steam-rolled its way in and completely disrupted almost all areas of what was previously considered the “normal” way of life – no less so than in the Clinical Research sector.

With several companies calling a halt for either a financial precaution or workforce and patient safety issues, everything from small businesses with promising but small pipelines, to even the big players and household names calling for a time out and a re-think. It is estimated that over 2,500 trials were stopped or postponed in the first 5 months of 2020. Although not unusual for Clinical Trials to be chopped and changed, this more than doubled that of the year before with almost half of the total number having Covid-19 cited as their reasoning.

The Effects

Senior industry leaders believe it will take time to get Clinical Trials up to the level where they once were – prior to Covid-19. Approvals will become slower if there are not trials taking place, whilst those which are taking place are likely to have skewed and compromised data, delays in time scales, changes in protocols or even the chance of patients in trials becoming compromised by the virus itself.

As a result, questions are being raised of when, rather than how, the industry will pick itself back up and get back to where it once was, or rather – where – it will be, following the consequences being experienced around the world.

A change to the “old normal” is becoming widely acknowledged, addressed, and implemented. There is an increasing interest throughout the industry in exploring remote working, virtual trials and remote data collection – all seen as ways to continue development. In an ideal world, these changes can offer massive potential, with an increase and ease in patient recruitment and advancements in the AI infrastructures involved. Despite these advancements, even in a time of so much remote accessibility – smartphones, wearables and trackers – we are unlikely to see these changes implemented yet, as key concerns remain about the increase in variables and potential compromises to the control groups.

Not all ‘doom and gloom’    

Though the outlook has looked bleak early on in the pandemic there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Clinical Trials are indeed still going ahead. There are pipelines that are building back up; and though these may not be at the same as before, there is the resilient “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome” attitude with most of the players in the game.

With over 100 vaccines in the running, and some studies being fast-tracked, with vast global investments to ensure the successful development of what will soon become a different future, it is likely to see more than one product at the end of the race. The real competition will be which product is best, not who is first.

Everyone has felt the impact of the pandemic in some way or another. With sacrifices made everywhere what is encouraging is the tenacity, on a global scale, to hit back. Companies big and small collaborating together and bringing the best weaponry to the fight, new technologies and old discoveries with everything bar the kitchen sink being launched into the fray to find the ways to improve life standards of those affected and increased chances of survival for those infected.

Businesses are beginning to slowly and cautiously come out of the bunker and into the light of the new day. Although the Covid-19 beast has not gone away – and it is important that there is a careful tread down the path of the future – the initial shake up has begun to settle down more in most places. Infection numbers are beginning to increase again in some areas which is always a sad reality of something we will need to face until there is a vaccine in place, the advances made even in this short time span so far, show that we will be more prepared with precautions in place to continue further clinical development as well as a natural way of life.

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