Site Selection: Don’t Forget About the Study Drug

When conducting GCP audits, many criteria must be checked including those that affect the drug you are testing.

As a sponsor or CRO, you understand the importance of a thorough site selection process. A site needs to be able to meet enrollment targets and timeframes, protect the rights and safety of study participants, execute the protocol, deliver quality data, and maintain GCP compliance. That’s what your site feasibility surveys and pre-study visits are designed to evaluate. And as you’re assessing a site’s abilities, the site is conducting its own feasibility process. They’re mining their patient database and assessing inclusion/exclusion criteria. They’re reviewing staff credentials and ensuring they have adequate resources to manage the number of subject visits and collect the data the protocol requires.

But when we conduct GCP audits, we find there’s one perspective that is sometimes overlooked by both sides: the needs of the study drug itself.

Study drug attributes affecting site selection process


IP environment


Aside from needing sufficient storage space, many drugs have special storage requirements. Does the site have the equipment and resources needed to maintain and adequately monitor and record environmental conditions such as temperature or humidity? Do they have agreements with their vendors that guarantee a specific response time for repairing or replacing faulty equipment? If they lose electricity, do they have back up power, or at least provisions to move the IP off-site? (This is a common auditor question in hurricane-prone areas.)


Preparation of study drug


Does your investigational product need to be reconstituted in a liquid? Do doses need to be compounded in different concentrations? Does the protocol require that an IV solution be prepared, filtered, and sterilized? These activities take time, specially trained personnel, and sometimes specialized equipment such as ventilation hoods. If your protocol demands an involved IP prep, your feasibility survey must include questions that allow you to assess these site capabilities and your pre-study visit should definitely include some time in the pharmacy. 


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Drug administration


Handing over a bottle of capsules to a study participant is one thing; inserting a butterfly catheter into an antecubital vein is something else again. If drug administration is very invasive, you’ll want to verify that the site has taken this into account when providing you enrollment projections. During subject visits, staff members may have to calculate doses, give intramuscular injections, perform infusions, or conduct sterilization procedures. You’ll want to verify that site staff has this expertise if required. Some clinical trials require a blinded dispenser who cannot be involved in any other study procedure or activities. If so, does the site have the resources for this?

Site selection: it’s not just the PI, it’s the IP


Both study success and patient safety are jeopardized when a site can’t meet its enrollment target or doesn’t have the resources to execute the protocol. IP requirements can affect a site’s ability to do both. It’s critical that your site selection process – both your feasibility questionnaire and your pre-study visit – evaluate how well the site can meet the storage, preparation, and administration requirements of the study drug.

A version of this article originally appeared in InSite, the Journal of the Society for Clinical Research Sites.

Have you participated in a site selection?  What was the most challenging part of the task? Share your answer in the space below.

Laurie Meehan is the social media manager for Polaris Compliance Consultants, Inc. She writes the company blog and eNewsletter, manages the company website, social media accounts, and internal training platform. Prior to joining Polaris in 2008, Ms. Meehan worked at a major telecommunication R&D company and taught math and computer science at local university.