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VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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Interesting Niches | Clinical Trials
With Lorne Wiebe—P&C Broker, Rhodes & Williams
Rhodes & Williams Group of Companies is a nationally licensed brokerage with a fairly even split across Personal and Commercial Lines, headquartered in Ottawa. Although as an office they cover general Commercial insurance, many of their Commercial producers have specific niches they target—one of those niches is Clinical Trials.
HOW DID RHODES & WILLIAMS BECOME INVOLVED IN THIS NICHE?
Clinical trials aren’t a niche our brokerage has pursued as a whole, but we have some excellent brokers who have deep knowledge and experience in this space. When I first started as a broker, I heard about clinical trial insurance and attended several conferences which weren’t insurance driven at all—they were geared towards educating the organizations involved in running and sponsoring trials. What better way to learn about the challenges facing these companies than to hear their stories firsthand? The knowledge I took away has helped me guide organizations with their trial insurance. Plenty of coordination is required along with a close working relationship with the underwriter and your client.
WHAT ARE THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES IN INSURING THESE CLIENTS?
There’s a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to multinationals because most of the coverage needs to be placed directly in overseas locations. Occasionally clients
want to conduct trials in difficult-to-insure locations. I’m currently working on a trial
in Russia—not the easiest place to do business. But there’s been a serious push in some of these countries to up their game hosting clinical trials, and foreign regulators have been doing their best to attract them. There’s tax money involved and it helps solidify their jurisdiction’s medical expertise. So as more countries become attractive for trials, we’re seeing more trials take place overseas. You have to know the insurance markets that can follow them and offer the proper coverage which is often heavily regulated in the country of choice.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE FEATURES OF THEIR COVERAGE?
With multinational trials, you may need to place an insurance policy that complies with local government regulations. That often means engaging a local brokerage in that country. Sometimes these local policies are subpar so it’s best practice to secure a North American-style master policy that will respond with Difference in Conditions and Difference in Limits, which basically becomes your backstop in the event of a claim, which doesn’t trigger the subpar foreign policy. The master is intended to respond to those denied claims with broader coverage and the limits we’re used to seeing in Canada. Some organizations view required foreign policies as part of the cost of doing business overseas, they’re not really expected to respond well in the event of a claim.
HOW DO YOU TARGET THIS SEGMENT?
I attend clinical trial conferences and events and through the process of meeting and greeting folks and sitting at the table with them, an organic relationship can grow. Once you help a trial sponsor or a research organization and they’re pleased with your service and results, they tend to recommend you to others looking to insure trials. Most of my work is by referral.
HOW HAS COVERAGE CHANGED TO ADJUST TO THE PANDEMIC?
The pandemic’s certainly delayed trials everywhere. Clinics are busy reallocating resources to help on the pandemic frontlines. A few times when the Covid case count would drop, we’d think perhaps a trial could get underway, but then the numbers would go up and the trial would be delayed again. For a while some insurers stopped quoting any trial that had anything to do with Covid research, but we’re now seeing a loosening of that blanket declination.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE COMMON CLAIMS THEY FACE?
Insurers are pretty tight-lipped about the claims they see in this space. Some underwriters have shared stories of a trial participant alleging injury due to a trial—if other participants learn of the alleged injury, suddenly a class-action suit appears. I think for the most part trials are very closely underwritten and insurers perform significant due diligence before they agree to quote. I’ve certainly had underwriters decline quoting if there’s a history of poor performance of a drug, for example.
VOLUME 21 | ISSUE 4
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