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Global clinical trials take a major hit from pandemic

April 9, 2020
Life sciences

Clinical trial enrollment has dropped massively across the world with endocrine and cardiovascular tests being the hardest hit.

This is according to a new breakdown from Medidata (PDF), now owned by Dassault Systèmes, which aims to show by numbers how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted global clinical trials.

The firm’s analysis of data from 4,599 studies and 182,321 study-sites shows a stark retreat: The year-on-year difference between March 2019 and March 2020 across all reported countries and targeted disease areas saw trial enrollment down around 65% on average.

The U.K. was the hardest hit, with trial enrollment down 80.1% year over year. Its tax-funded trial organization, the National Institute for Health Research, said it was stopping pretty much all tests in the country to focus on COVID-19 trials and getting medical staff out onto the front lines against the pandemic.

The U.S., meanwhile, was down 66.7%, with Germany and Japan as outliers with enrollment down 32.5% and 43.5%, respectively. In terms of disease areas trials are targeting, endocrine disorders were the hardest hit, down 80%, with cardiovascular, central nervous system and dermatology all closely matched, being down in the mid- to high-60% range.

Cancer trials were down but just under half year on year; perhaps unsurprisingly, respiratory was down the least, just 33%.

The report found China, where the virus originated late last year and the first epicenter of the outbreak, had initially seen its trials hit but is bouncing back. The report’s authors said: “In China, we saw a 68% decrease in new patients entering trials YoY during March, but the silver lining was that March was 240% higher than February in terms of new patients added, which could be a leading indicator of China returning to normalcy.”

This comes as a series of biopharmas including Pfizer, Merck, GSK, Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb and others are all saying they have had to delay or pause a series of trials due to the pandemic. And one biotech, Aveo Pharmaceuticals, also recently cited COVID-19 as a reason for the study failure of ficlatuzumab in acute myeloid leukemia.

Medidata conclude that: “These few but growing examples of trial delays or stoppage by biopharma to mitigate the cost and impact of the pandemic dramatically highlight the need for rapid, innovative solutions to help trials successfully start, continue and finish.”

By Ben Adams

Source: Fierce Biotech

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