Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on recruitment to clinical research studies in rheumatology

Mazin Mirza, Stefan Siebert, Arthur G. Pratt, Elspeth Insch, Frances McIntosh, John Paton, Claire Wright, Christopher Buckley, John Isaacs, Iain B McInnes, Karim Raza, M Falahee

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Recruitment to clinical studies is often challenging, and there has been increasing focus on developing strategies to promote participant recruitment (Treweek et al., 2018). During the current pandemic, the recruitment of participants to non‐COVID‐19‐related clinical studies has been negatively impacted by issues including prioritisation of COVID‐19 research, redeployment of research staff and the need for social distancing (Mitchell et al., 2020). Almost 90% of the National Institute for Healthcare Research non‐commercial research was paused in 2020 (Iacobucci, 2020).

Anxieties relating to the pandemic have been elevated amongst the rheumatology patient community, particularly in relation to infection risk due to immunosuppressive treatment, self‐isolation, shielding and difficulty accessing usual care (Glintborg et al., 2021). Treatment decision‐making has also been negatively impacted, and healthcare professionals are less likely to initiate or step up treatment (Dejaco et al., 2021). These concerns are likely to exacerbate reluctance to participate in clinical research. It is likely that such behavioural and perceptual changes will continue to have an impact beyond the pandemic.

To assess the likely impact on recruitment to clinical research studies in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and to identify strategies to overcome barriers to clinical recruitment, the management committee of the Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE: www.race‐ conducted an online survey of patients with a diagnosis of RA which was distributed to the membership of the National Society for Rheumatoid Arthritis (NRAS), the UK patient‐led organisation specialising in RA and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
Original languageEnglish
JournalMusculoskeletal care
Early online date3 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Research into Inflammatory Arthritis Centre Versus Arthritis (RACE) (grant number 22072).


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Clinical research
  • participant recruitment
  • rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Chiropractics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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