Trial resumptions slowing due to new Covid-19 strains

GlobalData Healthcare 8th February 2021 (Last Updated February 9th, 2021 11:55)

Since early March 2020, more than 500 companies have publicly announced disruptions to their planned and ongoing clinical trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have delayed the initiation of planned trials or withdrawn them completely, and others have suspended enrollment in their ongoing trials or terminated the trials altogether.

Trial resumptions slowing due to new Covid-19 strains
Credit: Tim Reckmann.

Since early March 2020, more than 500 companies have publicly announced disruptions to their planned and ongoing clinical trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have delayed the initiation of planned trials or withdrawn them completely, and others have suspended enrollment in their ongoing trials or terminated the trials altogether. The majority of trial disruptions can be attributed to patient safety measures, strict lockdown requirements, social distancing procedures, and the high demand on medical professionals to treat COVID-19 patients.

As the initial peak of the virus started declining, many trials were set to resume activity. However, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is increasing again globally, especially in Western areas such as the US and Europe. The news of two more infectious variants of COVID-19 has led to increased restrictive measures globally.

The COVID-19 Dashboard on GlobalData’s Pharma Intelligence Center dynamically tracks both disrupted and resumed trials.

As of January 25, 2021, 929 disrupted trials have resumed. Out of these trials, 71.9% are currently recruiting participants, 12.8% have completed recruitment but are still ongoing, and 0.5% of trials have yet to start recruiting subjects. The figure below shows that there is a very slight, steady increase of trials resuming activity. Initially, the general trend showed a gradual increase in the overall percentage of trials for each trial status, the biggest of which has been seen in ongoing, recruiting trials and ongoing, not recruiting trials. However, between December 23 and January 25, ongoing, recruiting
trials decreased from 74.6% to 71.9%, and completed trials increased from 10.6% to 12.8%.


The US has the highest number of resumed trials at 87.5%, followed by the UK at 10.8%, Spain at 9.0 %, France at 8.8%, and Germany at 8.1%. Both new variants of the COVID-19 strain from the UK and South Africa have been shown to be more infectious, causing widespread worry and thus extra precautionary measures such as restricted travel and local lockdown measures. With the global rollout of three main COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Moderna, it is expected that global figures for COVID-19 cases could decrease in upcoming months. If this occurs, then the potential of disrupted trials resuming could be likely.