Increase in virtual trials improves patient accrual rates, finds report

The increased use of virtual components in clinical trials has led to fewer trial delays or terminations due to low participant numbers.

Virtual medical appointment on a phone

A new GlobalData report has found that the increased use of virtual components such as eConsent, telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and wearables in clinical trials over the past decade has led to fewer trial delays or terminations due to low participant numbers.

According to the report, COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures caused significant disruption to clinical trials and accelerated the use of virtual trials. Companies that had not considered this model before had no option but to rapidly implement new technologies and procedures to maintain business continuity, and many companies will continue to use virtual trials post-pandemic.

“GlobalData’s Clinical Trials Database reveals that, of the total 14,000 trials that were suspended, terminated or withdrawn between 2011 and July 2021, 30 percent were due to the low number of trial participants. The proportion of trials with low accrual issues decreased from 32 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2020,” commented Kitty Whitney, Director or Analysis at GlobalData. “Additional analysis shows that the percentage of clinical trials using virtual components has increased from 1.3 percent of all trials in 2011 to 2.5 percent in 2020. By July 2021, this had increased to 3.5 percent – no doubt driven by the ongoing impact of COVID-19.”

Virtual or decentralised clinical trials use digital technologies, such as eConsent, telemedicine, remote patient monitoring and wearables to bring research closer to the patient. They also include direct-to-patient shipping of drugs to a patient’s home, as well as in-home care with mobile nurses.

“The traditional clinical trial model is outdated and is causing issues for patients, trial sites and sponsors,” continued Whitney. “These include low recruitment and retention rates, which lead to trial delays and increased costs for sponsors.”

According to GlobalData, recruitment and retention issues are often due to the distance from a patient’s home to a trial site and the number of visits required. Virtual trials represent a viable solution to these issues and have been shown to reduce patient burden by decreasing or even eliminating physical site visits.

“While COVID-19 shone a spotlight on virtual trials, data show that the shift towards virtual trials was underway before the pandemic. Companies who are not already integrating virtual components into trials need to adapt their research models to become more patient-centric in order to recruit and retain more participants and improve trial efficiencies overall,” Whitney concluded.