To ensure hospital visits were kept extremely limited and for urgent care only during the height of the pandemic, the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, called for the suspension of certain clinical trials due to the risk of drug shortages and risk of infection, particularly of patients considered vulnerable due to pre-existing conditions.
There was also an urgent need to focus on prioritising trials connected with the prevention or 'cure' of coronavirus; as a result, these trials took precedence, whilst others faded further into the background.
However, with charities and funding organisations seeing their financial resources limited due to a decreased income from consumers and other forms of charitable donation and/or grants from government and philanthropic means, there is now a deep concern that some of these trials will fail to re-open altogether.
The failure to re-open these trials, and the continuation to keep others on hold, will have a devastating impact on patients hoping to see benefits that are life-changing or extending, both for themselves and their loved ones. It could also place restrictions on the UK's ability to develop and launch innovative medicines and devices to help future patients and keep its position as a leader in the innovation space.
The basic fact is that innovation costs money. In the pharma sector, it costs a large amount of money due to the huge regulatory and legal hurdles that innovators must go through to get drugs or devices safely to the patients that so desperately need them. With the funding lines for this innovative research and their clinical trials being strangled by COVID-19 and the consequent impact on patients and their loved ones, as well as research organisations, this could have serious, long-ranging implications for us all.