Pandemic Has Put Many Clinical Trials on Hold

FRIDAY, April 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer clinical trials are being completed during the pandemic, which experts say could affect medical research for decades to come.

Previously, it was reported that more than 80% of clinical trials were suspended between March 1 and April 26, 2020, with the pandemic cited as the main reason.

In this study, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine examined more than 117,000 trials in the United States, Europe, Asia and other regions to find out how the pandemic has affected clinical research.

"This analysis revealed that the impact was substantial -- particularly for trials funded by government, academic or medical entities," said study author Nour Hawila, a doctoral candidate in biostatistics.

Researchers found that between April and October of last year, study completion rates dropped worldwide between 13% and 23%, depending on trials' sponsors and locations. Patient enrollment in trials was lower in April 2020 than in April 2019.

Trials sponsored by pharmaceutical, biotechnology and therapeutic companies were more likely to complete enrollment, according to findings published recently in the journal Clinical and Translational Science.

"The pandemic has made it more difficult for researchers to recruit and follow up on patients in clinical trials," Hawila said in a Penn State news release.

The study also found that new interventional trial submissions to ClinicalTrials.gov -- a website that contains information on the status of thousands of clinical trials in the United States -- dropped roughly 10% between April and October of last year.

The study also found a shift in research priorities -- 472 (11%) of trials submitted between April and October 2020 were pandemic-related.

The pandemic had less of an impact on clinical trials in some parts of the world, however. For example, Egypt had an increase in both submitted (69%) and completed (73%) clinical trials, likely due to a recent law governing medical research, researchers said.

"Clinical research response to the pandemic has been robust," said co-author Arthur Berg, associate professor of public health sciences. "But the impact of the pandemic on other types of clinical trials will be felt for decades to come."

He added that as shown in Egypt, timely governmental action may be able to reverse the pandemic's impact on research.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on clinical trials.

SOURCE: Penn State University, news release, April 7, 2021

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