How can IRT be further utilized to manage your clinical supplies?

1st September 2016 (Last Updated July 18th, 2018 09:57)

CTA's Kathryn Essery examines the use of IRT in the clinical supply chain and ponders how it can be effectively used

How can IRT be further utilized to manage your clinical supplies?

Interactive Response Technologies (or IRT as it is more commonly referred to as) has been the forerunner in clinical trial supply technology since its inception, but innovation in its use has been sluggish. The system is highly niche and many now think it could be used to provide more for users than simple randomization and clinical supply management. With movements being made in this direction, how can IRT be further utilized to manage your clinical supplies?

One course of action is to integrate your logistics with IRT. The people responsible for this initiative have described the experience as both “exciting and challenging” but their work has been a big step forward for the technology. This brings in a shift towards a completely automated process in which sites must upload the temperature monitor before moving forwards with the trial. If an excursion has been recorded it will have been picked up by the newly integrated IRT system and can be analysed from here for trial safety.

One challenge with rolling this out on a wider scale, however, has been integrating the systems with the operational processes of those working in the depots and sites. This will by no means be an easy transition for companies working on international multi-site trials as juggling different practices and forcing alignment is likely to take time. Additionally, technological integration has proved to throw up its own set of challenges but work is underway on an IT level and the process here is making good headway.

However, such innovations must be analysed not just on a level of excitement from pharma companies and the improvements which can be made to trials from the viewpoint of clinical supplies – how too will such innovations affect the site user? It can be easy to forget what may work for one end of the supply chain may actually cause difficulties for those at the other end. It has been argued that an incorrectly used IRT system is worse than useless and similarly bringing in innovations to aid the aims of clinical supplies professionals within pharma companies may not bring out cries of joy from all stakeholders throughout the clinical supply chain.

So should we be innovating IRT or bringing new technologies into the mix? IRT has proven to be highly successful, when properly used, at delivering the basics of the technology. As the foremost technology used for clinical supplies it seems the obvious choice to build on its capabilities, however is this the best move? Introducing add-ons to IRT in the form of  direct to patient, on-site labelling and others would ideally lead to a more robust system which improves operations on a daily basis – however the alternative is an over-complicated, bloated system which has been diverted from its initial and successful use as a randomization and management tool.