Trials tribulations due to COVID-19: Movement restrictions and focus on pandemic hit clinical studies

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Non-COVID-19 related trials are being pushed back amid the ongoing pandemic.  © Getty Images
Non-COVID-19 related trials are being pushed back amid the ongoing pandemic. © Getty Images

Related tags COVID-19 Trial

Companies and research institutes are having to put on hold or postpone their non-COVID-19 clinical trials due to movement control orders and public health resources prioritising the fight against COVID-19.

Malaysia’s tocotrienol-specialist Excelvite told NutraIngredients-Asia​ that the company has stopped one of its human clinical trials studying the effect of tocotrienol-rich vitamin E in improving the renal function of diabetic patients with damaged kidney due to the state-imposed movement control order.

Based on an earlier study​, the trial was assessing the effect of tocotrienol-rich vitamin E at different dosages.

“We are halfway through but will need to make a sacrifice and redo it,”​ said business development manager Bryan See.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged the importance of COVID-19 research, adding that firms can consider investing in this area. 

“I think companies can still invest in this area regardless of the outcome, because this [COVID-19] will persist and there is still a long way to go.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Medlab Clinical on April 1 announced the completion of a clinical trial on the effects of NRGBiotic – its multi-patented probiotic – as an adjuvant to common anti-depressant medicines.

Commenting on the completion, CEO Dr Sean Hall said he was pleased to have fulfilled the research duties with minimal interference to the participants in light of COVID-19.

He told us that at this point in time, most of the firms he knew of were no long running trials.

“For companies which still have clinical trials running, I wouldn’t want to be one of them, it is a very difficult time. For companies that have clinical trials running in public health facilities, most of them that I know of are at a standstill.”

The delay in clinical trials will also have a spill-over effect on the company’s financial measure. Some might need to increase their budget to extend or rerun their trials.

There is also a potential for early trial closure.

“I think for most, they are looking at early closure where possible and take the data set that they have to make new recommendations. It is not so much a pause, it will be a new trial or a trial extension work based on the findings that they have,” ​Dr Hall said.

The imbalance

Another expert added that most government funding for scientific research were being allocated to COVID-19, which would lead to reduced funding for non-COVID-19 research.  

“There will be serious implications because a lot of critical trials that are happening for cancer or other life-threatening diseases will slow down,”​ director of Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM Jammu), Dr Ram Vishwakarma said.

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