Pace gathering as pharma adapts to the ‘new normal’
April 20, 2021
The detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been widely reported with almost every aspect of life feeling the impact of the virus.
Few sectors have been unaffected, and, like so many others, the healthcare, pharmaceutical and regulatory affairs industries have all had to pivot, adjust and adapt to a ‘new normal’ that few were prepared for.
However, while some have struggled to overcome the challenges, pharma and its related sectors have embraced the opportunity to re-examine old practices and methods and replace them with creative new ways of doing things.
Of course, these changes were not without their difficulties with the clinical trial process bearing much of the initial brunt of the pandemic as the number taking place fell slightly as restrictions and lockdowns took effect.
However, once healthcare and pharmaceutical organisations began to get to grips with COVID-19, the number of trials rapidly picked up the pace and even increased, with a 17 per cent rise year-on-year recorded in 2020.
One of the main reasons for this has been the determined efforts of Contract Research Organisations (CROs) around the world to meet the challenge of the ‘new normal’ head-on with a marked progression towards improved virtualisation of processes.
As the pandemic gripped, many industries suffered delays and setbacks due to a lack of the virtual capabilities required to connect and interact with people.
However, as we look ahead and beyond COVID-19, consideration must now be given to the future of clinical trials and their continued transition to virtual and remote sessions and less reliance on traditional ‘in-person’ tests.
This will be achieved through the improved digital engagement with participants using data to simplify and personalise the process. While this will take some additional effort from those conducting them, the inherent cost savings are significant when we consider that almost 50 per cent of the cost of a clinical trial is swallowed up by monitoring.
COVID-19 provided the industry with a stark wake-up call and the realisation that historic methods needed urgent change and the use of new technologies with the added benefits of greater efficiency and lower costs.
It also started the process of the creation of more collaborative working methods through a developing and evolving integrated platform that provides a wide range of real-time data analysis.
This sharing of information allows companies to improve processes and gain efficiencies in the management of units, resources, and time while also obtaining the most relevant and up-to-date information from clinical trials to share with peers and the regulatory agencies.
It also helps improve safety for everyone involved and highlights significant milestones, markers and achievements in trials.
There is also the fact that remote trials allow a much broader demographic to participate in them which is hugely beneficial in ensuring the efficacy of medicines to a wider range of society.
Changes are taking place and while they will take time to fully embed, the agility of the healthcare industry and its ability to evolve in the face of overwhelming circumstances will ensure improvements in data quality, product development and patient safety and that is a welcome side effect of the last 12 months.
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