The pending combination of eResearch Technology (ERT), a leader in patient-centric endpoint data collections, and PHT, a leading electronic diary solutions provider for clinical trials and developer of patient-driven mobile apps, would create the largest company for patient endpoint collection and data analytics in global clinical trials.
The CEOs of both companies, who reportedly have been discussing ERT potentially acquiring PHT for the past eight to nine months, declined to talk about the deal, since the transaction has not been completed and still is subject to regulatory review. However, they expect the acquisition to close within the next several weeks.
And at least one rival, Cary, N.C.-based Exco InTouch, sees the combination as good for the industry overall.
“This deal is positive for the industry, as it puts a greater focus on ePRO (electronic Patient Reported Outcomes) and eCOA (electronic Clinical Outcome Assessments) in general, which include patient, clinician and observer-reported outcomes,” said Tim Davis, CEO of Exco InTouch. “The acquisition of PHT by ERT is a reflection of the major interest and appetite for ePRO and eCOA solutions in clinical research.”
Both ERT and PHT, as well as Exco InTouch, view their biggest hurdle as the lower-cost, paper-based PROs that a large number of sponsors and CROs still rely on for clinical trials.
PHT’s CEO Philip Lee has said ePRO data collection hovers in the 40% to 50% range, with the majority of trials still using paper or a combination of both. He also has said PHT’s business has grown substantially in the last two years, as more companies see both the benefits and capabilities of ePRO expanding.
A recent survey of 22 sponsors and CROs by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development and Almac Group showed 18 of the companies have adopted ePRO, citing increased data quality, patient compliance and efficiency of data collection. More than 60% of respondents said they began using ePRO in the last five years.
In late February, PHT enhanced its eCOA system by announcing a suite of patient engagement apps to help retention and compliance of clinical trial participants. In a statement, Lee said he views joining ERT as providing greater scale to more quickly get solutions to clients. PHT, which has been involved in more than 750 trials with pharma and medical device companies and CROs, also will gain new opportunities to reach the cardiac and respiratory markets, two of ERT’s strongholds.
“There are many complementary strengths both companies can provide to each other,” said Alan Louie, research director at IDC Health Insights. “ERT gains a dedicated customer base and PHT gains a broader footprint. And now they will be under the same umbrella.
“I think the two companies will have two future directions. One is on the healthcare side, which is similar to their eClinical work, in which they might use new internet technologies and mobile technology devices such as blood glucose testing, for which the data can be sent to a smart phone and used in a clinical trial. Another is a new opportunity to respond to adverse safety events earlier and provide more useful immediate data to better reflect what the patient is experiencing.”
Louie said both companies’ futures are tied to both the expansion and evolution of clinical trials and the use of new mobile healthcare technologies.
Only a small group of companies exists in this space to compete against the combined ERT-PHT, said Louie. ERT acquired invivodata, a provider of ePRO solutions and consulting services, in 2012, six days after ERT was acquired by Genstar Capital in a take-private transaction valued at approximately $400 million. PHT, meanwhile, has evolved as the overall leader in ePRO, he said, amid a small group of competitors that includes Exco InTouch, CRF Health and Almac Group.
“What we’re seeing with this [ERT-PHT] deal is part of the consolidation among major clinical trial vendors, pharmaceutical companies and CROs,” said Louie. “There are fewer lone wolves out there with a specific niche area and no commodity capabilities.”
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