Life sciences companies still struggle to come up with accurate predictions of the cost of clinical development, a new study has found.

The survey by ClearTrial, a US-based provider of clinical trial operations software, revealed that for nearly half of the respondents, the typical variance between their forecasted costs for clinical studies and the actual costs was at least 11% and was often higher.

Accordingly, only 21% of the survey respondents said they were “highly confident” in their budget forecasts for clinical trials.

ClearTrial surveyed life-sciences professionals responsible for forecasting and budgeting clinical studies at small, medium-sized and top 20 biopharmaceutical and medical device companies.

The project, details of which can be downloaded from, includes 187 responses from managers and executives in clinical operations, outsourcing, finance and project management representing 75 biopharmaceutical and medical device companies in the US, Europe and Japan.

Not efficient

Another marked finding was that planning efficiency in this area tended to be slack.

According to ClearTrial, 83% of survey respondents said they needed at least one to two weeks to create a ballpark budget for a clinical study, while 50% required three weeks or more. In addition, 62% of respondents said they needed at least three weeks to roll up individual study budgets into a budget portfolio.

ClearTrial maintains technology is partly to blame. “The use of planning spreadsheets uncovered by the survey is at a level you would have seen in other industries 10 or 15 years ago,” noted chief marketing officer Andrew Grygiel.

“The life sciences industry still lags far behind other industries in the use of purpose-built forecasting and budgeting software,” Grygiel added. “If the industry is truly serious about improving efficiency in clinical development, they will need to do more to improve the planning tools they use.”