Each new year brings up the conversation about what trends might shake up the clinical trial industry. A panel discussion at the Clinical Trial Supply Europe 2023 conference in Milan delved into the ins and outs of what to expect from European supply chains over the next 12 months.

As Amaury Jeandrain, senior director of solutions engineering and partnerships at N-Side, pointed out when opening the panel discussion “Uncovering new trends and technological advancements for the European clinical supply chain: what’s new for 2023?”, 2020 was an interesting start to the decade with the Covid-19 pandemic spreading throughout the globe, followed by the Ukraine-Russia war and the EMA’s new Clinical Trial Regulation and Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS). These events pushed the industry towards technological innovations to overcome logistical challenges, as well as towards a more purposeful assessment of the ecological impact of supply chains.

Where is technology needed?

While other global events have challenged clinical trial operations many times before, responsiveness to global events and disruptions is still something that needs to be worked on. To get the desired helicopter view over the inventory and its location, the industry needs to adopt live view monitoring to enhance responsiveness, says Arnaud Dourlens, head of clinical trial supply at Sanofi. Another way to have access to all of the trial activity is to employ cloud-based solutions and advanced analytics, he explains.

Being aware of the trial status will lead to quick decision-making, says Rob Adriaansen, global key account manager of clinical trials at Berlinger. As a result, this will benefit patients as it can reduce rescheduling and wait times.

Roel van der Heijde, facilitator and trainer at the Rotterdam and Patient Experience Association, explored the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI systems such as ChatGPT, which will have a massive impact from the patient perspective in 2023. When Google was introduced to the public, many patients gained access to information that was sometimes not accurate. Similarly with AI and ChatGPT, these technologies can offer solutions, but physician oversight is still needed, he adds.

Clinical Trials Arena previously explored the potential of BioGPT, a similar generative language model trained on millions of previously published biomedical research articles. However, as these technologies enter everyday processes, there is a need for a law to regulate them, as it is well known that AI has biases in its algorithms, Heijde explains. While regulations are needed, the law can backfire and stifle innovation, van der Heijde adds.

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Sustainability or greenwashing?

Sustainability is also a common theme across the conference programme and amongst attendees. As previously reported by Clinical Trials Arena, having eco-friendly supply chains was not a particular interest of the pharma industry. Dourlens says that it will be an important trend in 2023, as sustainability has become an expectation from patients, society, and investors. While there is a never-ending race to deliver medicines fast, huge levels of waste hide behind the speed. Companies need to introduce smart and friendly approaches, such as recycling, circular flow, and eco-designs in the supply chain, he says.

A few years ago, sustainability was only mentioned at the bottom of the page in annual reports, whereas now companies produce whole chapters on how they are increasing eco-friendly measures, Adriaansen adds.

The other side of the coin is that this can lead to user greenwashing, where companies project to the public their intention to be sustainable but fail to deliver on their sustainability goals. Dourlens notes that the industry needs to move forward from talking to actionable steps towards sustainable supply chains.

Interested in more clinical conferences? Visit Arena International for more events across the globe with industry experts and leading experts.