The pandemic forced the suspension of more than 2,000 clinical drug trials in 2020

According to the consulting firm Evaluate Pharma, April was the month in which the most projects were canceled.

An investigator.

Research for new drugs has not escaped unscathed of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the efforts of both the pharmaceutical sector and hospitals to keep the studies active, more than 2,000 clinical trials were suspended in 2020 due to the health crisis.

An initial impact that seems to have given truce. The specialized consultancy Evaluate Pharma states that around half of these clinical trials have already been resumed. In January 2021, only 54 studies promoted by the pharmaceutical industry remained suspended. “Most companies have managed to resume projects thanks to the acceleration in the use of digital tools for testing,” says the consultancy.

However, the effect of the pandemic has had a greater impact on those projects led by hospitals. “They were very restricted during the toughest months of the pandemic and still many continue to be interrupted,” explains Evaluate Pharma in its report ‘Pharma, Biotech & Medtech 2020 in review’.

Suspension of clinical trials in 2020.

Suspension of clinical trials in 2020.
Evaluate Pharma.

According to the analysis of the consultancy, the peak of cancellations of clinical trials occurred between the months of March and June. Specifically, April was the month in which the most studies were suspended: 801. Although these figures were gradually recovering, in December 2020 the number of suspended trials was still higher than that registered in 2019.

Despite the fact that more than 2,000 studies were paused in 2020, the truth is that most were only stopped for two months. “The interruptions were for the most part brief”, Indicates the consultant in its report.

Development of anti-Covid vaccines

The pharmaceutical industry has focused its efforts on the search for vaccines against Covid. The year 2020 ended with the approval of the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. In 2021, Moderna was also added and, recently, that of AstraZeneca. However, the consulting firm foresees that the authorization of new antigens, such as Janssen or Novavax, will be key to make a difference with 2020.

The European Medicines Agency is already evaluating the Janssen and Novavax vaccines. The first will receive the go-ahead in mid-March, provided it meets all the efficacy, quality and safety requirements. Novavax’s will not be long in coming either. However, despite these advances, the consulting firm warns that “setbacks cannot be ruled out.”

This is what has happened, for example, to MSD with its candidate vaccines against Covid-19. Biopharmaceutical has discarded its antigens for not achieving sufficient efficiency. Sanofi and GSK have been delayed for this reason as well, although both companies expect their vaccine to be ready by the end of 2021.

Without a doubt, all eyes are on the next antigens, since they will be key to boost the production of doses and, therefore, mass vaccination. It should be remembered that the goal is for 70% of the population of the European Union to be immunized by the end of the summer.


Regarding the sales of vaccines against Covid-19, the specialized consultancy confirms that it will be that of Pfizer which will lead the market during 2021. According to the company’s own forecasts, it expects to generate revenues of 12.4 billion euros from the sale of its antigen in 2021.

However, as Invertia published according to the data provided by this same consultancy in December, this vaccine will lose sales. Moderna will be the winner of the long-term competition. This company’s antigen, which is above 94% effective (Pfizer’s is 95%), will be the best-seller from 2022 to at least 2026.