Fewer patients complete clinical trials during pandemic

April 8, 2021
Keith A. Reynolds

Clinical research has been limited during the pandemic due to COVID-19 precautions.

COVID-19 precautions like social distancing and lockdowns could have affected researchers’ ability to complete clinical trials.

According to a news release, researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine found that study completion rates dropped between 13 percent and 23 percent depending on the type of research sponsor and geographic locations from April to October 2020. Previously, it was found that more than 80 percent of the clinical trials which were suspended between March 1 and April 26, 2020, cited the pandemic as the primary reason for stopping the study. Enrollment in these studies also saw a drop in April 2020 from where it was in 2019.

The researchers looked at data from ClinicalTrials.gov on more than 117,000 trial in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and other regions, the release says.

"The pandemic has made it more difficult for researchers to recruit and follow up on patients in clinical trials," Nour Hawila, a biostatistics doctoral candidate and a research assistant from the Department of Public Health Sciences, says in the release. "This analysis revealed that the impact was substantial -- particularly for trials funded by government, academic or medical entities."

The pandemic reduced the number of new interventional clinical trial submissions to the website by about 10 percent while completed trials were down 13 percent to 23 percent, the release says.

Meanwhile, the researchers note that the pandemic caused a shift in priorities with 11 percent of trials submitted being pandemic-related, the release says.

"Clinical research response to the pandemic has been robust," Arthur Berg, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and biostatistics doctoral program director, says in the release. "But the impact of the pandemic on other types of clinical trials will be felt for decades to come. However, as demonstrated in Egypt, timely governmental action may be able to make a difference in reversing the pandemic's impact on research."