According to GlobalData’s Clinical Trial Database, the number of overall decentralised clinical trials (DCT) trials has steadily increased from 250 trials in 2012 to 1,291 trials last year. There have been 950 trials this year so far, and this is expected to increase to around 1,425 trials by the end of the year. From 2012 to 2016, both industry sponsors and non-industry sponsors had similar values regarding DCT usage. From 2016 onwards, more non-industry sponsors were using DCTs than industry sponsors.

There has been a gradual rise in the number of overall DCT trials since 2012, except for a sharp peak last year, when values jumped from 912 trials in 2020 to 1,293 trials.

The increases in DCT usage in both industry and non-industry-sponsored trials last year could be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to global lockdown measures, DCTs removed problems posed by geography, which hinders traditional trials, enabling the recruitment of patients anywhere without the need to visit a site. DCTs also assisted in remote data collection and monitoring. The flexibility that DCTs offer for study design and data collection helped trials overcome the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The majority of DCTs are in Phase II (43.0%), followed by Phase III (25.0%), Phase IV (20.9%) and Phase I (10.9%). DCT usage may be higher in both Phase II and Phase III due to enrolment obstacles within these trials. As Phase II and Phase III trials have a higher number of trial participants, DCTs can help ensure that these trials are accessible to all participants. DCT usage can also allow for speedier data collection and analysis, especially for larger participant groups. A reduction of DCT usage for earlier-phase studies could be attributed to a heavy focus on safety and efficacy, which require increased monitoring of trial participants, especially in person.

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