| Press Releases

Industry Survey: Pharma and Biotech Firms Increasingly Concerned About the Stability of Large CROs Amid Industry Consolidation

Worldwide Clinical Trials’ report explores changing perceptions of large and midsize contract research organizations

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – 08 FEBRUARY 2024Worldwide Clinical Trials, a leading global full-service contract research organization (CRO), has released results of a recent industry survey. The report examines changing perceptions about large and midsize CROs within the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. Derived from a diverse respondent base of clinical trial sponsors—including emerging, small, midsize, and large companies in the United States and Europe(1) —the findings unveil concerns about the impact of complicated market dynamics on large CRO performance and service delivery.

“This survey data reveals the current challenges pharma and biotech sponsors are facing while highlighting the importance of CRO partnerships and flexibility. We hear from our sponsors all the time that they want transparent communication, responsiveness, and personalized attention – they need these things for reassurance and to create a shared sense of ownership, especially during times of market uncertainty and CRO shake-ups,” stated Worldwide’s president and CEO, Peter Benton. He added, “Regardless of sponsor size, at the core of successful clinical research programs are high levels of customer service, ongoing proactive communication and collaboration, and the flexibility to adapt in an everchanging clinical landscape.”

Samir Shah, industry veteran and principal of Shah Pharma Consulting Services LLC, recently examined the structural changes across distinct customer segmentations, specifically midsize to large pharma and biotech, and the implications for CROs needing to further configure solutions based on their specific operating model. Shah commented, “Worldwide’s findings are supported by a McKinsey & Company report that includes data from the biotech segment and provides insights on how CROs can improve their partnership models. Both reports underscore the importance of CROs offering flexible and customized solutions that account for the size and needs of a specific customer.”

Large CRO Segment Dynamics

Of note, nearly 80% of survey respondents felt the “one-stop-shop” claim frequently marketed by large CROs is not a cost-effective business model, and often does not result in seamlessly integrated service delivery. Additionally, 50% of respondents shared that large CRO instability has impacted their willingness to partner due to project team disruptions, lack of access to top talent, poor service delivery, and more. In addition:

  • 75% of respondents raised concerns regarding a lack of personalized attention.
  • 71% of respondents voiced apprehension about higher clinical development costs when working with large CROs.
  • 70% expressed worry about potential project team disruptions leading to extended turnaround times and deliverables.
  • 69% were anxious about inefficiencies arising from operational differences between poorly integrated companies.

Challenges also surfaced among survey respondents regarding the talent, service delivery, and client prioritization offered by large CROs. Notably, 69% reported encountering a “B” team despite assurances of an “A” team, and 62% expressed reservations about their inability to provide consistent support to customers of all sizes.

These misgivings seem to underpin the anticipated outsourcing activity shift from 41% to 46% (net gain of 5%) from large CROs to midsize CROs over the next three years, as revealed by the data. This change in outsourcing behavior was demonstrated across trial sponsors from all company sizes and geographies. This signals a notable change in the market, strongest among midsize and large biopharma sponsors in Europe and the US.

Midsize CRO Takeaways

Survey participants noted that their inclination toward midsize CROs is driven by their belief that midsize CROs deliver more agility, personalized attention, and an advantageous balance of cost and value.

More than 80% of respondents concurred that midsize CROs not only align well culturally but also demonstrate the ability to swiftly adapt to evolving customer needs. Moreover, among the attributes respondents noted as beneficial factors when working with midsize CROs:

  • 83% cited “agility.”
  • 81% cited “rapid escalation of study-related issues.”
  • 80% cited “access to senior-level scientific and medical expertise.”
  • 79% cited “personalized attention/greater customer focus.”

For more detailed insights and access to the complete survey report, click here.

About Worldwide Clinical Trials:

Worldwide Clinical Trials (Worldwide) is a leading full-service global contract research organization (CRO) that works in partnership with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to create customized solutions that advance new medications – from discovery to reality. Worldwide’s capabilities include bioanalytical laboratory services, Phase I-IV clinical trials, and post-approval and real-world evidence studies – all powered by an accessible team of clinicians, scientists, and researchers who bring first-hand expertise and a collaborative, personalized approach to each clinical program. Worldwide is therapeutically focused on neuroscience, oncology, rare diseases, and cardiometabolic and inflammatory disease. Its global footprint spans nearly 60 countries with more than 3,400 team members. For more information, visit www.worldwide.com.

Disclaimer: When accessing the industry survey report, please note – The content of this report is proprietary to Worldwide Clinical Trials. Please note, no part of this report may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of Worldwide Clinical Trials except in the case of quotations embodied in reviews and non-commercial uses including press and media outlets. Any unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this report or any portion thereof may result in legal action taken by Worldwide Clinical Trials to protect its rights. For permissions or inquiries, please contact: Media@Worldwide.com.

1. The web-based, quantitative research survey was fielded with key CRO decision makers across emerging, small, midsize, and large pharma and biotech companies (N=140). Regional representation included 66% US/Canada (N=93), 34% Europe (N=47). The research was conducted by a third-party market research partner, and research participants were recruited from a panel of experts involved in the evaluation, selection, and use of CROs.

Recent Press Releases


Our extensive collection of scientific articles and papers