Virtual trials here to stay, shows data from executives survey

Results from two surveys show more executives are planning virtual trials in the near future.

Data from a survey of 127 senior industry executives from the past two months shows about 77% of respondents said they planned to run a hybrid trial in the next 12 months. This represented a massive jump compared to the 59% for the previous year. The figure is also slightly higher than the seven in 10 who indicated they planned to run traditional, site-based studies over the next 12 months. Results from the survey carried out by Science 37, the industry's leading virtual trials provider, are somewhat comparable to those from a survey done by Veeva Systems back in September. Veeva’s survey involved almost 300 respondents and showed that 87% of sponsors and CROs either currently use or plan to conduct trials digitally compared to a third who did prior to the pandemic.

On a therapeutic area basis, oncology emerged as the most prevalent field for decentralized clinical trials, with almost half of the respondents planning to run such trials over the coming 12 months – representing an 11% year-over-year increase. Other areas expected to see a notable uptake of hybrid trials include the central nervous system, rare diseases and immunology. Furthermore, according to the survey, almost all phases of clinical trials are expected to see significant increases. While virtual trials have long been touted as the future of the industry, the pace of uptake was only materially catalysed by the onset of the pandemic early last year. Even with that, challenges are still expected ahead with many sites and regulatory authorities still lacking the infrastructure and capabilities to support such trials.