Depression now one of the top five most studied disease areas in clinical development, finds Phesi

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags depression Clinical trial Clinical research

Phesi, a global provider of patient-centric data analytics, has released the results of its mid-year global analysis of all clinical trials conducted in 2023 to date.

The analysis of 13,490 trial records reveals that Covid-19 is no longer one of the top five most studied disease areas, and trial activity for depression ​has increased – becoming the fourth most studied disease globally.

Three of the top five most-studied diseases fall within oncology, with solid tumours the most studied disease indication, followed by breast cancer, stroke and prostate cancer.

Dr Gen Li, president at Phesi, said: “Awareness of the global mental health crisis has been growing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. An estimated 5% of adults are affected by depression globally. New therapies to tackle this disease are desperately needed, with SSRIs – the last major class of antidepressants – launched over forty years ago.”

“As clinical development investment into Covid-19 continues to wane – a trend Phesi saw begin to emerge at the end of 2022 – the industry is allocating resources to other disease areas. Increased investment into depression therapies is likely due to greater awareness, improved understanding of the underlying causes of the disease, and growing investment in new avenues, such as psychedelics​.

“There will be particular challenges in clinical trials in this area. Companies will need to design protocols carefully to ensure newly approved treatments reach patients as soon as possible.”

However, the research reveals that 31% of trials at phase 2 have been cancelled, amidst an overall decline in clinical development productivity.

This marks a 55% increase compared to pre-Covid levels. According to Phesi, such delays will have a knock-on effect on the rate at which new therapies reach market and may prevent viable new therapies from reaching patients.

Li adds: “The clinical development industry is still feeling the effects of disruption caused by the pandemic. The fallout will be with us for some time longer, and we predict that we will see around two more years of high levels of phase 2 attrition. The strain of these trial cancellations on the global drug development pipeline will be severe, and to ease the pain, productivity and trial efficiency needs to improve.”

“Unnecessary protocol amendments and trial cancellations are a symptom of inadequate protocol design. We must go back to the fundamentals and use data to improve the design of clinical trial protocols. By applying predictive analytics in protocol design, the industry can overcome enrolment difficulties, accelerate clinical trials and avoid amendments, overall improving productivity.”

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