Cohortias – EU health policy taking shape post-COVID-19

The EU came up short in running any pan-European clinical trials to advance the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapies.
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EU health policy taking shape post-COVID-19

The EU is planning to consolidate clinical trial networks to support broader multinational trials that can generate more high-quality data at speed, if and when there is another pandemic threat. 

In two reports published last week, the European Commission outlined its health strategy and the steps needed to be in a better position to tackle future health emergencies.

As the reports point out, COVID-19 and the rush to develop vaccines and therapies underlined how crucial prior research and clinical trials had been, but also how the fragmented nature of the European clinical trials network made it difficult to swiftly mount multinational trials and pool the data generated.

As one example, the EU-funded Discovery trial aimed to recruit 3,100 patients in seven countries. Meanwhile, the UK Recovery trial recruited 48,287 patients in the UK alone.

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In its first state of health preparedness report, the Commission suggests consolidating clinical trial networks so they can be on standby “to enable the conduct of perpetual platform trials and perpetual strategic cohorts, to pivot to emerging diseases if an epidemic strikes.”

In support of this, the EU is expanding and improving funding for platforms such as the European pandemic clinical trial platform; new medicines and medical countermeasures for vaccines; and EU-Response, which enables hospitals across Europe to participate in trials involving repurposing of existing drugs, combinations of drugs, and new therapies against emerging infectious diseases.

The importance of clinical trials is also highlighted in the EU Global Strategy published on 30 November, which calls on the EU to expand global research partnerships including clinical trial networks so that they can be pivoted to address new and emerging pathogens.

In September, a survey of 400 clinical trials experts in France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK said that COVID-19 had the positive effect of increasing the uptake of technologies for managing trials and remotely assessing patients, which resulted in an overall improvement in the processes.

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