Analysis of COVID-19 Clinical Trials Reveals Disorganization and Wasted Resources

An analysis cosponsored by STAT and AppliedXL, a Newlab Venture Studio company, found that clinical trials for treatments and preventative strategies for COVID-19 were marked by disorganization and wasted financial resources. Investigators found that studies were too small to provide conclusive results, lacked control groups, and put disproportionate resources into a few potential treatments. A total of 1,200 COVID-19 related trials launched since January were included in the analysis.

The findings were based on records from, the U.S. database on global clinical studies, and focused on trials that explicitly studied COVID-19 treatments and prevention, specifically interventional clinical trials. The analysis reflects the data as of June 24.

Data showed a disproportionate number of resources went into studies of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine – malaria drugs that have since been shown to have no benefit in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 – with one in every six trials designed to study these treatments. These trials planned to enroll approximately 237,000 patient volunteers, or 35% of the 685,000 total patient volunteers expected to be enrolled in all COVID-19 trials. By contrast, only seven studies looked at treatment with dexamethasone, the steroid that has recently been found to decrease death in ventilated patients.

Many trials also were too small to produce meaningful conclusions. Nearly 40% of studies included in the analysis are enrolling or plan to enroll fewer than 100 patients, meaning they are less likely to yield clear results.

“It’s a huge amount of wasted effort and wasted energy when actually a bit of coordination and collaboration could go a long way,” said Martin Landray, PhD, a professor of medicine at Oxford University and one of the lead researchers on the RECOVERY study, a large-scale nationally-sponsored trial in the U.K.

Source: STAT, July 6, 2020.