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COVID-19 helps healthcare facilities apply more technologies so that clinical trials can be conducted remotely.
FREMONT, CA: It is now increasingly clear that the effects of COVID-19 for coming years will reverberate in the industry. The pandemic proves to be not only an acute problem but also a healthcare inflection point, as nothing can return to its usual pre-COVID. Therefore, it is time to begin to understand the effect of COVID-19 on the future of science, therapies, and inventions.
A good example is an oncology. Although COVID-19 is a danger to everyone, the healthcare sector knows that patients with cancer are especially vulnerable. Their immune system, which is already compromised, puts them at higher risk for health problems from this virus. Patients' capacity and willingness to see doctors (either for diagnosis or treatment) is a significant problem for sponsors and researchers conducting oncology trials, intensified by general stay-at-home orders limiting patient movements.
IQVIA collaborated with the Cancer Research Institute, a US non-profit cancer research agency, to survey researchers and key opinion leaders (KOL) across the US, Europe, and Asia to assess how significant an impact the virus has on oncology trials. One of the top challenges affecting both registration and ongoing patient care is urgent patient safety. As a result of COVID-19, most sites record moderate to increased delays and canceled patient visits. They found that survey respondents are especially concerned about studies that involve lengthy on-site visits involving cellular and gene therapies or intravenous administration.
Telemedicine was reported as being used or considered by the leading strategy respondents to resolve the effect of COVID-19. More than half of the respondents have mentioned remote monitoring, the direct shipment of oral medications to patients, and the elimination of site visits.
Regulators are on board
Oncology trials can be very time-consuming for patients. Deciding to participate was difficult for patients and their caregivers, even before COVID-19. However, suppose the nature of the trial is more patient-centered, with certain visits and treatments taking place in patients' homes. In that case, it could make participation more enticing, thus extending the trial's scope to a broader population. It's a significant example of how COVID-19 can appear to be a catalyst for potential positive change.
Sponsors also see the added benefits that virtual components offer to their crisis management strategies. Being able to treat immunocompromised patients in their homes or through local healthcare facilities removes concerns about patient exposure to COVID-19 and suggests that trials, even if sites are shut down, may easily change direction in the event of a potential crisis.