“Clinics that are closed… we need those masks, gowns, gloves, and we need them now.”
That plea was issued by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo last Friday, March 20, when New York was reporting about 7,500 cases of COVID-19. Less than a week later, the state is now reporting more than 25,000 cases and is the US epicenter of the pandemic.
As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country and overwhelm hospitals, the dwindling stock of masks, gloves, ventilators, and many other much-needed medical supplies foretells a disaster in the making. New York City alone is estimated to need more than three million N95 respirators, 50 million surgical masks, 150,000 ventilators, and 25,000 gowns, gloves and coveralls—just in the next three weeks.
And while Governor Cuomo’s call for unused medical supplies has thus far been answered (to a degree) by the federal government, private businesses and individuals, the looming shortage—in New York and all around the country—is very real. And it’s coming very quickly.
So today we call on the clinical research industry to answer the pleas to help fight this pandemic, as idled clinical research sites around the country may represent an abundant, untapped source of the very supplies desperately needed by frontline healthcare workers right now.
According to GlobalData, there are more than 33,000 clinical trials being conducted in the US, and most of these are currently either paused or implementing processes to enable virtual monitoring, if appropriate. In either case, there is ample opportunity to find medical supplies within research sites that are not in use. Things like syringes, gloves, surgical masks, respiratory masks, face-shields and gowns are all typical site supplies that frontline healthcare workers desperately need to protect themselves and their patients.
It’s sobering to admit that many of these supplies go unused and are eventually discarded during and after the normal course of a clinical trial—a tremendous waste of resources in a typical climate, an unimaginable waste in the current climate—but this practice mirrors the broader issue of waste across the health care system. A 2015 study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, suggested that more than two million pounds of medical supplies worth more than $15 million are recoverable every year from large non-rural US academic medical centers.
And although there’s scant data available publicly regarding the amount of medical supplies that go unused during clinical studies, there’s little doubt in our minds that a significant volume exists among the 33,000 clinical research sites in the Unites States—and it’s needed urgently. So dig it out. And donate it.
How to Help
Donate: The American Red Cross is coordinating numerous pandemic efforts (including blood donation, if you’re able!), and should be able to put you in touch with local healthcare organizations in need of supplies. To get in touch with your state’s department of public health, see this handy list from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Advocate: Pass this along to all of your colleagues throughout the clinical research community so that we can make a collective impact to help our frontline healthcare heroes and our most vulnerable patients.
Share: If you are able to donate unused medical supplies, please let us know. Share a picture, share your story, and Greater Gift will make a vaccine donation to GAVI.
One of the reasons we all do what we do is that we’re drawn to that strong connection between clinical research and global public health. We were led to this work because we wanted to make a positive impact on public health. And we have. All of us. In ways large and small. From conducting clinical trials for potentially life-saving novel therapies to helping a single patient better control his or her diabetes. But now we’re needed in a very big and very urgent way: to help equip our country’s healthcare workers with the supplies they need to fight a deadly pandemic.
So please join us, and do what you can. Donate. Advocate. Share.