A cure for clinical trials

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A cure for clinical trials

“Pharma companies often miss their deadlines when testing new drugs. The use of marketing techniques to manage the recruitment of patients for clinical trials could speed things up considerably.”

The McKinsey Quarterly, 2002 Number 2

Policy relevance:

The EU is currently overhauling its pharmaceutical legislation with a view to fostering innovation and ensuring the safety of medicinal products placed on the market. At the same time, the succesful sequencing of the human genome in 2000 has opened up an array of possibilties for developing new drugs. However, as rules for clinical trials are being reformed, the expansion of new drug development may run into a number of bottlenecks. This article offers insight into some of the problems that pharma companies may encounter and how to tackle them.

Main conclusions:

  • Testing new drugs is a costly and frustrating headache for pharmaceuticals companies, and it often brings about large delays. In the US, a failure to get enough patients in time accounts for 85 to 95 percent of all days lost during clinical trials. This problem is about to get worse as regulatory changes are requiring more and more patients in order to get a drug approved.
  • As more new drug targets enter the R&D pipeline, thanks to the opportunities unleashed by the charting of the human genome, poor recruitment could become a bottleneck, hampering a company’s ability to bring new drugs to market expeditiously.
  • Such delays could cost pharma companies at least $800,000 a day in lost sales for a niche medication, and as much as $5.4 million for a blockbuster. Moreover, millions of dollars could be lost if a competitor catches up. On the other hand, taking a single month off a trial by improving recruitment could generate an additional $40 million in sales for an average drug.
  • To do so, pharma companies must radically alter their R&D efforts by improving the speed and efficiency of recruitment, and this in turn will streamline the whole clinical-trials process.

Janice Cruz RoweandRanda Zakharyare consultants with McKinsey & Co,Martin Ellingis a principal, andJudith Hazlewoodis a director in McKinsey’s New Jersey office.

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