Published: 19-12-2023 10:08 | Updated: 19-12-2023 10:09

Are we implementing the lessons learned from doing clinical trials during the pandemic in Sweden?

Man standning infront of a screen with an audience looking at him
Professor Jens D Lundgren giving the keynote speech at symposium on clinical trials of COVID-19 treatment Photo: Caroline de Groot

What were the successes and challenges of clinical trials of COVID-19 treatment during the pandemic in Sweden? What have we learnt, in order to be better prepared for future health crisis? Those were questions asked at a symposium and roundtable discussion organised by the Centre for Health Crises at KI on December 14.

Identifying both challenges and causes for success are important to learn from past crises. It is equally important to not only analyse, but to also drive and implement changes needed in order to be better prepared for next time. That is why the Centre for Health Crises, in collaboration with Lund University, Örebro University and Gothenburg University, invited researchers, clinicians and other stakeholders to share and discuss experiences at an open symposium in Biomedicum on the 14th of December. 

Symposium with presentations and questions

At the symposium, eight researchers and principal investigators from different Swedish University hospitals presented the large multi-centre treatment studies they had conducted in the midst of the pandemic, along with the challenges they had faced and the successes they had had. Thanks to the keynote speaker, Professor Jens Lundgren from the Centre of Excellence for Health, Immunity and Infections (CHIP) in Copenhagen, valuable lessons and experiences from Denmark were also included. 

Roundtable discussion to deepen the conversation

The open symposium in the morning was followed by an invite-only roundtable discussion, with the speakers from the morning session, but also representatives from the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Ethical Review Authority, the Swedish Medical Products Agency and politicians. The aim was to deepen the discussion, based on the successes and challenges that had been presented in the morning ,and to ask the overarching question: to be able to chart out next steps – what needs to change, and how can we drive that change? 

Sharing and discussing is a valuable way to learn

Helena Hervius Askling, Associate Professor in Infectious Diseases and expert coordinator in infectious diseases and vaccine preparedness at the Centre for Health Crises, was in charge of the day and was very pleased with the outcome. 

It is important to look at what worked well, and how to build on that, just as much as reviewing what did not work well. It is my firm belief that what works in everyday healthcare research and regulatory logistics is also what works in a health crisis. Consequently, we need to work on these discussions and strengthen our networks now, so that we are able to utilise them again when the next crisis hits. Sweden is a country with advanced and accessible healthcare that should be able to better contribute to pivotal clinical treatment trials, both national and international, in a health-crisis. Clinical research trials are needed to determine which is the best available treatment and be able to introduce this equally among patient groups that are affected in different ways, says Helena.

The Centre for Health Crises will compile the results of the symposium and roundtable discussion and help facilitate next steps in following up on some issues that were raised such as improving national collaboration and prioritisation as well as timelier access to statistics and data. The Centre will also be monitoring the EU’s work on these issues.