Australia's haste to rapidly fund and get COVID-19 clinical trials under way has exposed gaps in the system and may have led to "taxpayer-funded research waste", new analysis has found.
Academics have called for national co-ordination of clinical trials, saying key areas have been missed while others have been to small to gauge a reliable response.
The University of Sydney study looked at Australian clinical trials on COVID-19 from January 1 to November 16 2020.
"In Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid changes in some processes including fast-tracked funding, ethics approvals, trial registration, and publication," lead author Anna Lene Seidler said.
"Whilst research scale up has been impressive, some of these trials may not have been sufficiently strategic or collaborative, which may have led to taxpayer-funded research waste.
"Going forward, we need protocols to fast track procedures in emergency scenarios that balance both rigour and urgency."
Dr Seidler said key areas of study were overlooked by trials including public health communication and community transmission prevention.
She said media coverage and public opinion likely played a role in misleading research priorities, such as there being too many hydroxychloroquine trials.
The majority of trials focused on possible treatments for the virus but researchers found most of those were too small to reliably determine if something could work to prevent death.
The median sample size was just 150, "meaning that, individually, trials were likely under powered to detect differences in clinically important outcomes", Dr Seidler said.
Co-author Professor Angela Webster said researchers should have worked together to combine resources for larger trials, or a series of similar ones.
"For which results could be combined upon completion for more impactful research evidence," she said.
The analysis found 80 per cent of trials didn't plan to share data.
Dr Seidler said funding for data sharing efforts and minimum standards for collaboration should be imposed on researchers, to ensure better outcomes in the future.
In total, there were 56 trials looking at COVID-19 directly and another 12 addressing its indirect effects.
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