The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a guidance for industry, investigators and institutional review boards conducting clinical trials during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The FDA recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic may impact the conduct of clinical trials of medical products, including drugs, devices and biological products. Challenges may arise, for example, from quarantines, site closures, travel limitations, interruptions to the supply chain for the investigational product, or other considerations if site personnel or trial subjects become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
These challenges may lead to difficulties in conducting the clinical trials. The FDA is aware that protocol modifications may be required, and that there may be unavoidable protocol deviations due to COVID-19. Although the impact of COVID-19 on trials will vary depending on many factors, including the nature of disease under study, the trial design and in what region(s) the study is being conducted, the FDA outlines considerations to assist sponsors in assuring the safety of trial participants, maintaining compliance with good clinical practice and minimising risks to trial integrity. Considerations recommended include, among others, sponsors evaluating alternative methods for assessments, like phone contacts or virtual visits and offering additional safety monitoring for those trial participants who may no longer have access to investigational product or the investigational site.
“With this guidance issued, the FDA is helping industry and investigators navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and help assess how to move forward with critical clinical trials,” said Anand Shah, MD, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs “The FDA released this guidance to emphasise that at all times, patients’ safety should continue to be at the forefront of considerations. We want to support the continuance of these clinical trials in compliance with good clinical practice and minimizing risks to trial integrity, while also safeguarding the health and well-being of study participants,” he said.