Clinical Trials Costing Tool

What is the costing tool

The costing tool is an Excel spreadsheet template that can be used by sites to facilitate accurate trial costing and to support transparent price discussion.

Download here: 

NZ Clinical Research costing tool v1.4 Mar 2017 NZ Clinical Research costing tool v1.4 Mar 2017 (109 KB)

NZ Clinical Research costing tool Summary of Changes v1.4 Mar 2017 NZ Clinical Research costing tool Summary of Changes v1.4 Mar 2017 (210 KB)

Why was it created?

The idea for the costing tool arose in 2013 when a group of DHB Clinical Research Management and Finance staff formed a working group to share their knowledge of site costing for clinical trials. The aim of the group was to help give substance to the Government's earlier recommendations for streamlining clinical trials in New Zealand by designing a transferrable and standardised clinical trial costing guidance tool for use in DHBs and other clinical trial sites.
Members of the working group have practical experience in developing budgets to ensure the costs of carrying out commercial clinical research in their organisation are fully covered, and a wide knowledge and understanding of the political and process context of the clinical trial environment at both an organisational and national level.
In addition, a number of Sponsor and CRO representatives very kindly provided feedback during the development phase of the tool.
We greatly appreciate their generous help and advice.

[i] Government Response to the Report of the Health Committee on its Inquiry into improving New Zealand's environment to support innovation through clinical trials

What types of trial can I use the tool for?

The tool was developed to cost site participation in interventional commercial clinical trials, however it can be adapted by the user for non-commercial clinical trials. It does not include sponsor-related or trial centre management costs such as database building, CRF creation, statistical analysis or monitoring.

How does the tool add value?

The aim of the tool is to provide a resource that:

  • provides all parties in the clinical trials industry with a clear and consistent understanding of what the various components and terms involved in costing for clinical trials mean
  • gives research teams and their organisations a clear and accurate picture of the financial implications of conducting a trial so that decisions can be made based on sound information
  • gives consistency to the trial costing exercise, and improves efficiency as sites become familiar with the tool and can cost studies faster and more accurately
  • provides a baseline against which actual trial costs can be compared as the trial runs to completion
  • speeds up the budget negotiation process by ensuring all site costs are calculated at the outset, and site costs are consistent from one trial to the next
  • is sufficiently uncomplicated (despite the complexity of clinical trial costing) that it can be used by busy research teams whether or not there is dedicated assistance and support within the organisation
  • includes a summary of costs page that can be used during the site approval/signing stage

It is not a compulsory instrument; it is intended as a helpful tool which will streamline site budgeting processes and provide a common financial 'language' for clinical trial costing. Also, it is not intended that the costing tool replaces sponsor-site budget discussions and negotiations. It is an in-house document only which will allow sites to see where their costs lie.

How is it maintained?

The tool was released as a beta version in Jan 2015, and finalised in Dec 2015. Periodic updates and improvements will continue to be made to the tool by the working party. Comments, queries and feedback about the tool can be sent to

The NZACRes costing tool has been developed to facilitate accurate trial costing and to support transparent price discussion. Although every effort has been taken to ensure the tool is accurate, NZACRes does not assume any liability from the use of the tool.

How do I use the costing tool?

Users do need to have a degree of familiarity with excel spreadsheets. If you are not a moderately confident spreadsheet user, it will be necessary to access some support. The costing tool might look frighteningly complex when you first look at it. This is because we have tried to cover every eventuality and cost for as many types of trials as we could think of. However, although the costing tool covers an extensive range of items, not all of these will be appropriate for every trial and you will need to pick and choose what is relevant for the trial you are working on. As you work your way through it, you will be able to match the requirements of your protocol to the items.

Instructions for use

There is a set of instructions on the first tab which we suggest you print off, quickly scan through and then keep alongside you as you work through the spreadsheet. These instructions provide a succinct account of the purpose of each tab, instructions and things to take into consideration when using the tab. Each tab deals with a different set of costs and all costs are arranged so that they are counted only once.

Study Protocol

In preparation you will need to have a good understanding of the protocol and be in a position to start building up a true knowledge of the costs your organisation would charge for each item. It is your organisation's decision whether an item is something that you need reimbursement for or whether your organisation is prepared to carry that cost. However, this costing tool will help make that clear because you can add your own clarifying comments into the sheet.

Evidence of costs

Good practice would suggest that each item has some 'evidence' to back up the amount that is filled in. While the working group would like to have put in guidelines about standard costs, in fact, there are no standard costs; each site has its own cost structures for various reasons. In addition, with the tendency for costs to change over time, the work involved in keeping the costing tool up to date would render it obsolete within a short time. Different organisations will have different ways of providing confirmation of costs and ideally there should be some sort of 'paper trail' which can be appended to the completed costing tool to show that the right people have been consulted about what items cost and that the costs they have provided are transferred to the costing tool.

Support and guidance

We would encourage you to develop your understanding of the costing tool, and the underlying costing requirements of your organisation, within your own community of practice. It is recommended that thought be given to what kinds of support and guidance might be made available at an institutional level as this is a really important factor in getting buy-in and having people feel comfortable about giving it a go.

NZACRes aims to assist members and the NZL research community by providing standard templates and tools.  In providing standard templates and tools NZACRes accepts no liability for any disputes arising from the use of these documents.



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