All My Trials: Impact of COVID-19 on rare disease clinical trials

The database clinicaltrials.gov is a web resource of clinical trials around the world. It has a REST API that gives access to clinical trial data. There are some resources available to interact with this resource using R, such as rclinicaltrials and ClinicalTrialsAPI.

We were interested at looking clinical trials for rare diseases and particularly whether this year, COVID-19 had affected these trials.

I retrieved data sets for Rare Disease trials (n = 4029) and for COVID-19 trials (n = 2259). There are some trials that are investigating both things, so the intersecting trials were found and then the trials looking purely at Rare Diseases or at COVID-19 could be segregated.

I used the start date for each trial to count the number of trials in each of the three categories. The data are shown as the sum of trials starting in each quarter. Rare disease trials are shown on the left axis, COVID-19 trials on the right. The trials that are at the intersection are stacked on top of the Rare Disease only data.

Note the large difference in number of trials. There were 1801 COVID-19 trials starting in Q2 of 2020, whereas the busiest quarter for new trials in the rare disease area was 73 in Q1 of 2019.

The data do not show that COVID-19 has “wiped out” clinical trials in rare diseases. Some rare disease trial activity in 2020 now encompasses COVID-19, but the number of trials starting in each quarter this year is similar to previous years.

The post title comes from “All My Trials” from Cerys Matthews’ LP Cockahoop.

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