Article | April 1, 2020
Pharmaceutical stocks have been somewhat of a safe haven for investors as the coronavirus outbreak spread from China to the rest of the world. But as the pandemic deepened, now resulting in more than 782,000 cases worldwide, even these "safer" companies are beginning to feel the effects. The U.S. is now the coronavirus epicenter, with the most cases -- more than 161,000 as of today. Initial concerns for drugmakers had to do with the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients, which often come from China. The worry was that pharmaceutical companies wouldn't be able to produce enough of their drugs for patients.
Article | April 20, 2021
For much of the past three decades, even as methodologies for clinical trial design have advanced and refined, the idea of the optimized clinical trial has centered on optimal patient samples, target enrollment rates, and generally the most efficient uses of scarce resources in the form of patients. Yet anyone who has had to design and optimize a clinical trial, knows that trial optimization occurs within an ecosystem of choices; a series of choices that stretch from the time it takes to implement a clinical trial and submit clinical data for analysis, to general concerns about the cost and power of a clinical trial. A true clinical trial optimization process would try to unify a number of these choices into a single framework for trial optimization.
The complexity of clinical trial optimization comes from the need to align priorities on the one hand, and to understand opportunities on the other. We know that at a very general level, clinical operations specialists benefit from simplicity in clinical trial design, and that commercial teams prefer shorter clinical trials to longer ones. We also know that the statistical design of a clinical trial can influence both simplicity and duration. Yet how many sponsors have their clinical operations and commercial teams, sit with their R&D teams to review various statistically nuanced design options?
For many sponsors, the reason this process does not occur as often as it should, is because the nuanced statistical parameters of a clinical trial design are very difficult to communicate to non-statisticians. Yet a trial optimization tool like Solara, equipped with data visualizations and the ability to see tradeoffs intuitively, can overcome this challenge. The real challenge is often convincing the non-statistician that they have a stake in clinical trial design.
Cytel recently had a client that thought it needed a sample size re-estimation design, because it had a very strict limit on the number of patients it could enroll. After a few hours of working with Solara, though, a statistician discovered that a much simpler Group Sequential Design would deliver comparable power using about the same number of patients. The gains from the more complex design were minimal from the optimization perspective, when understood as the eco-system of choices.
Similarly, most commercial teams pressure their clinical trial designers to have the most accelerated clinical trial imaginable, but as we all know, the longer the clinical trial the more likely there will be a higher number of events that demonstrate the effectiveness of a new medicine. So commercialization teams have a stake in longer clinical trials, even when their rule of thumb is to shorten them.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential to communicate the benefits of various statistical designs to multiple stakeholders in a way that makes tradeoffs clear. Aligning on priorities early during the clinical trial design process is essential to selecting the optimal clinical trial. Yet for this statisticians need to be equipped for both a strategic and communicative role in the R&D process.
Article | March 4, 2020
Everyone in pharma knows that product success depends on the results of clinical trials — but we don’t usually hear from the people who are involved in running them. Recently, four Clinical Research Managers (CRM) from Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) discussed how Merck is overcoming the barriers to clinical trial recruitment by adopting a patient-centric process — a model that affects their trials top to bottom, from design through implementation. Each of the panel members manages clinical trials, serving as the main point of interaction with the Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) on research requirements, goals, and resources, including recruiting and retention.
Article | April 17, 2020
Swiss pharma giant Roche is joining the race to develop a test for COVID-19 antibodies in people who have been exposed to the disease. This morning, Roche announced the development and upcoming launch of its Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 serology test to detect antibodies in people who have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Roche is eying May for the launch of the test in Europe and is in talks with the U.S Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of the system.
Antibody testing is central to help identify people who have been infected by the virus, especially those who may have been infected but did not display symptoms, the company said. Roche noted that as more information becomes available about immunity levels to COVID-19, society can return to a sense of normal much more quickly. Roche’s test will join a number of other antibody tests that have recently come on the market. Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first blood test for COVID-19 antibodies.