163% growth in recruiting clinical trial sites in China

Virtual clinical development specialist Phesi has released its analysis of the growth in recruiting clinical trial sites in China since the beginning of 2018.

The analysis finds a significant rise in the number of recruiting sites in the country, with a 163% increase between January 2018 and January 2021. While the total number of recruiting sites in the US is still higher than in China, the rate of growth is far slower, with just a 9% increase in the same period (Figure 1). The data finds that the impact of the pandemic was far greater on the clinical trials industry in Western Europe and the US, compared to the sustained growth of China’s pharmaceutical industry.

Although the growth in China’s clinical development will bring many positive outcomes, including greater investment in research and increased participation in trials, the acceleration could also overwhelm China’s clinical infrastructure, leading to a potential strain on the industry.

Dr Gen Li, Founder and President of Phesi, said: “China was hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic, but the virus was relatively well contained within a few months. By contrast, Western Europe and the US experienced several waves of infections over a longer period. This created a “safe harbour” for China’s clinical trials industry, where few trials faced disruptions, delays, or cancellations due to Covid-19 – allowing the industry to grow and thrive.”

Despite the pandemic causing worldwide disruption to the pharmaceutical industry, China’s clinical development is recovering quickly, but sponsors should reportedly be wary of this growth. If the rate of acceleration continues at its current pace, China’s clinical infrastructure could be strained – resulting in fewer patients per trial. A lack of supportive local infrastructure could potentially become a barrier to innovation. This has led to industry experts calling for more accurate data on recruiting sites to be made readily available, so informed decisions can be made on which sites to use, and in which countries.

“This intense rate of growth for China’s recruiting sites means that over-reliance on US and EU clinical sites has its risks – the rapid growth of clinical investigation in China should serve as a warning to the industry as a whole.  The new growth of clinical trials is something to be welcomed as it can scale innovation, helping to bring new treatments to market faster. However, as we begin to see more sites open outside of the US and Western Europe, pharmaceutical companies must demand access to reliable data. The industry requires stronger data sharing and collaboration between pharmaceutical companies across all regions, meaning that strategic choices must be made about recruiting sites on a global scale.” commented Dr Paul Chew, Chief Medical Officer at Phesi.

Figure 1: Graph showing a comparison between the growth of recruiting sites in the US and China (Phesi)

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