Understanding the Clinical Trials Industry
There are many misconceptions about the clinical trials industry and trials themselves. Some people assume that clinical trials only exist for terminally ill patients or that they will have to bear the cost of treatment alone if they choose a clinical trial. Others think that being part of a clinical trial means definitively better or worse care. In all of these circumstances, they are wrong.
Overview of Clinical Trials
According to the National Institutes of Health, clinical trials use human volunteers to improve medical knowledge. Researchers test specific interventions. These can include drugs, medical devices, or surgical procedures, but they can also involve patient behavior, such as asking someone to follow a particular diet regime or follow an exercise plan. Clinical interventions may include new offerings still being researched, but they may also look at established treatments. However, clinical trials can also involve no intervention at all.
The idea is for researchers to test the effectiveness and safety of interventions and compare the results of those efforts to determine the best course of treatment. For example, a researcher may recruit people with diabetes to test a new insulin formulation, compare different insulins, or look at how the effectiveness of an insulin treatment varies depending on diet and exercise.
Pharmaceutical companies often conduct clinical trials, but they are not the only ones who test interventions. Universities and research centers also hold clinical trials as well as many federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Clinical Trials as an Industry
With so many organizations involved in clinical trials, it should come to no surprise that the market for clinical trials globally came in around $44.2 billion for 2018 and it is expected to grow at a rate of approximately 5.7 percent per year going forward. This growth is fueled in part by globalized clinical trials — these are trials that do not take place in a single location but are spread throughout regions and countries. The clinical trial industry is also seeing a boost from developments in technology and the drive for personalized medical treatments. For example, digitization makes it easier for researchers to keep data records straight and individual medical information private. Plus, clinical trial equipment rental solutions allow organizations to get the equipment they need without overspending.
Barriers to Clinical Trials
That said, clinical trials can be challenging to arrange, and they are costly. The current tally puts the cost to bring a drug to market as high as $2 billion by the time you include all the expenses involved in formulating and testing a medicine as well as the failures you experience along the way. It can also be a challenge to find an appropriate sample size to test and to keep those participants involved and compliant for the length of the clinical trial.
On top of everything else, there is often a disconnect between medical treatment and clinical trial research. Most doctors serving in the community are not involved in clinical research, and they do not take steps to be informed about new developments. As a result, there are fewer referrals to clinical trials. Further, many clinicians are not versed in how to interpret and apply the results of clinical studies in their practices. Even those who are may still be limited by the established procedures in their health system or the insurance coverage of their patients.
The clinical trials industry is filled with misconceptions. In reality, it is how the medical world makes sure that treatments are the most effective interventions. As an industry, clinical trials are growing thanks to technology and easier access to equipment, but there are still many barriers to conducting clinical trials, including cost and the disconnect between research and medicine in practice.