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How achievable are COVID-19 clinical trial recruitment targets? A UK observational cohort study and trials registry analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Anthony De SoyzaORCiD, Dr Ben Prudon



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 Author(s).Objectives To analyse enrolment to interventional trials during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in England and describe the barriers to successful recruitment in the circumstance of a further wave or future pandemics. Design We analysed registered interventional COVID-19 trial data and concurrently did a prospective observational study of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 who were being assessed for eligibility to one of the RECOVERY, C19-ACS or SIMPLE trials. Setting Interventional COVID-19 trial data were analysed from the and International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number databases on 12 July 2020. The patient cohort was taken from five centres in a respiratory National Institute for Health Research network. Population and modelling data were taken from published reports from the UK government and Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit. Participants 2082 consecutive admitted patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection from 27 March 2020 were included. Main outcome measures Proportions enrolled, and reasons for exclusion from the aforementioned trials. Comparisons of trial recruitment targets with estimated feasible recruitment numbers. Results Analysis of trial registration data for COVID-19 treatment studies enrolling in England showed that by 12 July 2020, 29 142 participants were needed. In the observational study, 430 (20.7%) proceeded to randomisation. 82 (3.9%) declined participation, 699 (33.6%) were excluded on clinical grounds, 363 (17.4%) were medically fit for discharge and 153 (7.3%) were receiving palliative care. With 111 037 people hospitalised with COVID-19 in England by 12 July 2020, we determine that 22 985 people were potentially suitable for trial enrolment. We estimate a UK hospitalisation rate of 2.38%, and that another 1.25 million infections would be required to meet recruitment targets of ongoing trials. Conclusions Feasible recruitment rates, study design and proliferation of trials can limit the number, and size, that will successfully complete recruitment. We consider that fewer, more appropriately designed trials, prioritising cooperation between centres would maximise productivity in a further wave.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cunniffe NG, Gunter SJ, Brown M, Burge SW, Coyle C, De Soyza A, Dymond T, Esmail H, Francis DP, Galloway J, Galloway JB, Gkrania-Klotsas E, Greenaway J, Katritsis G, Kanagaratnam P, Knolle MD, Leonard K, McIntyre ZC, Prudon B, Rampling T, Torok ME, Warne B, Yates M, Matheson NJ, Su L, Villar S, Stewart GD, Toshner M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMJ Open

Year: 2020

Volume: 10

Issue: 10

Print publication date: 05/10/2020

Online publication date: 05/10/2020

Acceptance date: 22/09/2020

Date deposited: 09/12/2020

ISSN (electronic): 2044-6055

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044566

PubMed id: 33020111


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