A women doing experiment with the medicine.

The Achilles Heel of Emerging and Mid-Market Biopharma Companies: Costly Clinical Trial Delays

In the fast-paced world of biopharmaceuticals, emerging and mid-market companies face significant challenges when bringing innovative drugs to market. One major obstacle is the costly delays in clinical trials, which can jeopardize the potential benefits of groundbreaking therapies.

These delays are caused by various factors, such as high development costs, patient recruitment issues, patient engagement, and strict regulations. Patient recruitment and retention can be tricky due to geographical limitations, lack of awareness, and patient concerns. Building trust with patients, effective communication, and addressing participant comfort is essential for successful recruitment and dramatically affect the costs of a trial.

Despite the hurdles, adopting proactive strategies and fostering collaborative partnerships can help these companies overcome challenges and drive medical innovation forward, benefiting patients and the healthcare industry as a whole.

The FDA’s drug approval process is thorough, ensuring safety and effectiveness. It starts with preclinical studies and advances through three clinical trial phases. Phase 1 tests on healthy volunteers, Phase 2 expands to patients, and Phase 3 confirms effectiveness while monitoring side effects.

After successful completion, a New Drug Application (NDA) is submitted to the FDA for review. Patient safety is paramount, and any adverse events can lead to setbacks or termination.(1)

There always is of course the issue of cost. Developing a new drug from conception to market approval can be extremely expensive, often reaching billions of dollars. Deloitte found that the average cost of developing a new drug among the top 20 global biopharmaceutical companies it studied rose 15% ($298 million) last year, to approximately $2.3 billion. (2) The cost encompasses the entirety of the research, clinical trials, and manufacturing, with no guarantee of success.

Clinical trials, a pivotal phase in drug development, contribute significantly to prolonged timelines. Conducting clinical trials involves recruiting a sufficient number of participants, administering the drug, and carefully collecting and analyzing data to assess its safety and efficacy.

The process demands meticulous planning, monitoring, and compliance with stringent regulatory guidelines, which can lead to delays. While a company can make an effort to strategically navigate the pitfalls in this workflow, it must also be noted that there can be uncertain success rates overall.

The success rate of drug candidates in clinical trials is relatively low (7.9%), (3) with many potential therapies failing to demonstrate sufficient efficacy or safety to move forward. For those that do make it through this grueling process, there is intense market competition and new drugs often face strong competition from existing treatments and other drug candidates targeting the same indications. In this sense, gaining access to the market and pricing the drug appropriately to balance affordability and sustainability is a critical challenge, especially with increasing scrutiny of healthcare costs.

In the context of regulations, health authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Europe, or other regional agencies impose rigorous requirements for drug approval. These requirements necessitate a robust body of evidence demonstrating the drug’s safety, effectiveness, and quality.

Meeting these demands involves extensive testing and analysis, which can be time-consuming and costly. Moreover, the drug application may face multiple rounds of review, adding to the overall timeline. Navigating through the regulatory landscape is a critical aspect of clinical trials.

Strict regulatory guidelines imposed by health authorities exist to protect patients and ensure data integrity. While essential for patient safety, adhering to these regulations can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, demanding a meticulous approach to obtaining the necessary approvals.

In recent years, efforts have been made to streamline the drug development process and reduce timelines while maintaining high safety and efficacy standards. Initiatives such as fast-track designations, breakthrough therapies, and accelerated approval pathways have been introduced by regulatory agencies to expedite the development and approval of drugs that address critical unmet medical needs. These new trial designs make clinical trial protocols more complex and demand centralized and flexible clinical trial management solutions that can help manage protocol complexity and implement amendments effectively.

Additionally, collaborations between public and private sectors, as well as advancements in technology and data analysis, have also contributed to shortening development timelines to some extent. Ensuring participant engagement and commitment throughout the trial duration is crucial to gather reliable data. Effective data collection, management, and monitoring processes are essential to maintain data quality and integrity, facilitating robust analysis and interpretation.

In the realm of clinical trials, another primary hurdle is patient recruitment and retention. Finding a sufficient number of eligible participants, especially for rare diseases or specific patient populations, can be daunting, exacerbated by geographical constraints. Overcoming these recruitment barriers is crucial to ensure diverse and representative study populations. Ethical considerations also play a pivotal role in the clinical trial process.

Protecting the rights and safety of participants is of utmost importance. Striking the right balance between potential benefits and risks while obtaining informed consent is a complex task that requires diligent attention to ethical principles. Ethical compliance is fundamental, but it can contribute to challenges with data collection and lead to potential delays in the clinical trial timeline.

Considering the diversity of clinical trial participants is imperative. Conducting trials in different countries with varying demographics necessitates an understanding of cultural differences, regulatory variations, and patient access to healthcare. Addressing these complexities is vital to ensure a globally inclusive approach to drug development. Furthermore, the management of adverse events that may occur during the trial is critical for patient well-being. Timely and accurate reporting and assessment of safety concerns are essential components of the clinical trial process.

A notable challenge arises from the placebo response phenomenon. In certain clinical trials, participants may experience improvements even if they receive an inactive treatment (placebo). This placebo response can confound the assessment of the true efficacy of the tested drug, emphasizing the need for meticulous study design and data analysis.

Furthermore, identifying and managing adverse events that occur during the trial is critical to safeguard participants’ well-being. Proper reporting and assessment of safety concerns are essential components of clinical trial conduct. Designing trials to mitigate the placebo effect requires careful consideration and robust statistical analysis. Data sharing is crucial for scientific advancement and validation of trial results. Open sharing of clinical trial data can foster transparency and collaboration among researchers. However, concerns about data privacy, confidentiality, and competition may hinder efforts to promote widespread data sharing.

In conclusion, the clinical trials process faces a range of challenges that demand continuous improvement and innovative solutions. Overcoming recruitment barriers, ensuring ethical conduct, navigating regulatory landscapes, and addressing diverse participant demographics are essential to streamlining drug development timelines and delivering safe and effective treatments to patients in need. By addressing these challenges, the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory agencies can collectively work towards advancing medical science and improving global healthcare outcomes.

In the dynamic landscape of biopharmaceuticals, emerging and mid-market companies face a myriad of challenges in their quest to deliver groundbreaking treatments to patients in need. Among the most formidable obstacles lie risks associated with costly clinical trial delays. As these companies navigate the intricate pathways of drug development, they must confront a multitude of factors that can impede progress, including patient recruitment bottlenecks and logistical burdens.

Emerging technologies hold considerable promise in addressing data-related issues, and revolutionizing the drug development pathway. These innovative approaches not only streamline clinical trial processes but also foster greater data accuracy, patient engagement, and transparency, ultimately paving the way for faster, more reliable drug approvals and delivering life-changing therapies to patients worldwide.

By fostering collaborative partnerships, embracing agile trial management approaches, and staying attuned to the ever-evolving clinical landscape, emerging and mid-market biopharma firms can rise to meet the challenges and chart a transformative course toward a brighter future for patients, investors, and the global healthcare community.


  1. FDA – “The Drug Development Process.” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/ patients/learn-about-drug-and-device-approvals/drug-development-process
  2. Deloitte. (n.d.). The Unbearable Cost of Drug Development: Deloitte Report Shows 15% Jump in R&D to $2.3 Billion. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Retrieved from https://www.genengnews.com/gen-edge/the-unbearable-cost-of-drug-development-deloitte-report-shows-15-jump-in-rd-to-2-3-billion/
  3. Anisimov, V. N. (2020). Clinical trials are an essential part of modern medicine: Key challenges and strategies. Vavilov Journal of Genetics and Breeding, 24(5), 564-571. Retrieved from Factors Affecting Success of New Drug Clinical Trials – PMC.


Source: Pharmaceutical Outsourcing