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Bio-IT World CTMS Survey

By Mark D. Uehling

May 12, 2006 | An unscientific online survey of the clinical trial management system (CTMS) market conducted by Bio-IT World has concluded, revealing some intriguing information.

First, a bit of information about the 108 who took our survey. Some 63 percent of our respondents reported they worked for organizations with more than 500 employees. Fourteen percent worked for organizations with 100-499 employees. Just 23 percent of those replying worked for organizations with 1-99 employees.

By organization, half of the respondents were from pharmaceutical or biotech companies, 19 were from contract research organizations, and the remainder consisted of vendors, consultants, and clinical site personnel.

Playing the NumbersAt times, clinical research organization (CRO) and pharma/biotech respondents to our survey saw the questions in exactly the same way. In both camps, for example, non-CTMS systems are taking on the functionality of a CTMS, according to roughly 85 percent of those surveyed. Must a CTMS integrate with other systems? Again, 95 percent of our respondents say that that is the case.

But there are divergences between how the pharma/biotech folks and the CRO folks see the CTMS landscape. Are our respondents happy with the CTMS landscape? Yes, generally. There is no great upwelling of discontent.

Among all respondents, 32 percent reported being very happy, 26 percent reported being content, 32 percent reported moderate unhappiness — and just 11 percent reported being very unhappy. But the figures skew slightly toward more unhappiness among CROs, with 42 percent of those respondents reporting moderate or extreme unhappiness. Among those in pharma and biotech circles, just 24 percent of respondents had such feelings. That suggests opportunities for CTMS vendors specializing in helping CROs.

There was a similar gap when we asked what types of tools were being used as a CTMS. Among pharmaceutical and biotech respondents, only 2 percent were using Post-It notes, loose-leaf binders, white boards, and their ilk. The figure was twice as high among CROs. Nine percent of pharma/biotech respondents were using Microsoft Excel documents, but 16 percent of CROs reported using spreadsheets. Eighty percent of pharma/biotech companies reported using commercial CTMS software; the figure was 42 percent among CROs. An in-house database was used at 9 percent of pharmas and biotech companies, versus at 37 percent of CROs. The survey thus appears to confirm a prevailing view in the industry, which is that CROs underinvest in technology for structural and cultural reasons.

Many of our questions were multiple-choice. But in one item, we forced respondents to pick the single most important feature of an ideal CTMS. CROs tended to weight all factors relatively evenly, with such features as managing one project, managing multiple projects, and monitoring patient recruitment being equally important priorities. For biotech and pharmaceutical companies, however, 40 percent of those respondents picked managing multiple trials as the runaway leader and most important feature. As one might expect, monitoring site and investigator improvement was three times as important to pharmaceutical and biotech companies as it was to CROs.

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