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Is Decentralization the Future for Clinical Trials?

Any company that offers drug discovery services relies heavily on clinical trials as they are quite crucial for the safe development of drugs. Clinical trials have always been performed by pharmaceutical companies to test the effects of a new drug before it hits the market.

Traditionally, clinical trials have always been performed in a centralized setting where volunteers are examined in a closer setting. However, this has changed recently and clinical trials have shifted from a centralized setting to a decentralized one.

Ever since this decentralization of clinical trials took place, there have been various discussions about if this can become the go-to approach from now onwards. In this article, we are going to discuss just that and try to understand whether decentralization is indeed the future of clinical trials. 

Centralized Vs. Decentralized Trials

Centralized clinical trials are the ones that are performed in a setting where there is close monitoring of all the subjects involved in the trial. This is a traditional method of a clinical trial which is commonly performed by any pharmaceutical company that provides drug discovery services.

A centralized setting is usually a laboratory where the effects of the new drug are tested on the participants and they are monitored closely to observe how the participants react to the new drug.

This helps to test the effectiveness and risks of the drug before it is introduced in the market. These clinical trials usually take place in four phases, wherein the first phase is tested with a limited number of subjects, this number then progresses up to the fourth phase. Only after completing all four phases, can it be considered for public use.

Decentralized trials first began because it was not possible for centralized trials to be performed during the COVID pandemic. Many centralized trials were stopped or paused due to the pandemic, which then paved the way for virtual trials.

Through telemedicine, the patients and physicians were connected virtually. The monitoring was done through this virtual interaction and made it possible for clinical trials to carry on in remote settings.

Advantages of Decentralized trials

Decentralized trials are a particularly new approach to clinical trials but they do have some advantages that make them a preferred choice for contract research organizations. Let’s discuss some significant advantages of decentralized trials.

  • Decentralized trials do not require the infrastructure that is needed for a centralized trial, which makes it a more cost-effective option. 
  • Patient and subject recruitment is much simpler with decentralized trials and it is possible to bring in more participants in the trial as they do not have to be physically present.
  • Clinical trials can reach more remote areas through decentralization, which means people living in rural areas with little transportation services can be involved. 
  • Fewer research staff is needed in decentralized trials and with digital data collection, the error in reporting is also reduced.

Can Decentralization be the future of clinical trials?

The variety of technology we enjoy today has made it possible for decentralized trials to be performed. Whether it is video conferencing, smartphones, wearable medical devices, or improved internet connectivity, it has altogether made virtual trials possible and brought a revolutionary change in clinical trials. But can decentralization be the future of clinical trials?

When we compare decentralized trials to traditional centralized trials, it is seen that decentralized trials have many advantages over traditional ones. The new technologies and the fact that they make it possible to reach even remote areas may actually mean that decentralized trials are indeed the future of clinical trials.

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