Rebecca is a consultant specialising in clinical operations, with a focus on the UK market.
When in the midst of a pandemic, the development of new treatments has never felt more important, so it’s unsurprising that the effort to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 has thrust clinical trial progress even further into the public view and interest.
The fact we’re now more aware of clinical trials that are in development comes with the territory, but what’s more surprising is that data shows we’re actively seeking out information on trial developments in a way we haven’t seen before. Our collective interest in these trials is accounting for a substantial part of their progress, and remaining invested in clinical developments post-COVID could provide a framework that puts patients at the heart of the drug development process, and gives them access to treatments faster.
Dismantling patient distrust
When it comes to healthcare, we’re all aware of the negative perceptions toward some of the organisations controlling the commercials and the systems that are in place. Due to the pandemic, however, major players in the clinical research space find themselves at a crossroads, where their next move could alter their relationship with the greater population.
Low visibility has always been a barrier between the public and large healthcare entities. We’re now in a heightened state of awareness thanks to the pandemic, and governing bodies, media outlets and the public are all demanding clarity.
The onus lies largely with the corporations here, but our relationship with big pharma in 2020 could set a new standard for the future; one of open communication and true transparency. If we maintain our interest in major clinical developments, it poses a great opportunity for those in the healthcare space to rebuild public trust.
Supporting recruitment drives
A foray we once might’ve only associated with students who were looking to make a bit of cash, the increase in visibility around clinical trials this year has led to a huge spike in individuals interested in participating in them.
Through feelings of altruism and a drive to make a difference against an issue affecting the whole world, almost 7 in every 10 Americans are now more likely to consider clinical trial participation, and over 100,000 UK citizens have registered for future COVID-19 vaccine trials through the NHS research registry. In our own poll on the subject, while 46% of respondents said the likelihood of trial participation hadn’t changed for them, 39% did say they were more likely to consider trial participation.
It’s not just the sheer number of potential participants that might get a patient recruitment coordinator jumping for joy, it’s the greater diversity that then comes with that. For approval, a vaccine candidate is going to have to prove clinical effectiveness on a group that is as representative of the global population as possible; it’s an easier task when you’re dealing with a pandemic that touches every corner of society.
If this change in public opinion regarding trial participation lasts for the long-term, it could mean we see a greater number of trials conducted and with a faster start-up time than previously possible.
The global investment in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine accounts for the reason a process that usually takes over 10 years could, in this instance, materialise around the 12 to 18-month mark.
The world can’t wait for a COVID-19 treatment, and understandably so. But once we do have a vaccine come to market, we ought to keep the same energy, interest and engagement that we’ve had for the trials we’ve witnessed in 2020 going forward. Continuing our discussions around ongoing clinical trials could improve our relationship with big pharma, help major new therapies reach approval, and give faster treatment access to the patients that need it.