Search

Clinical Trials Collapsing: NHS Patients are Losing Access to Innovative Treatment

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has released a report which has revealed that the number of clinical trials initiated in the United Kingdom per year fell by 41% between 2017 and 2021.

The report, which was released on the 20th of October, provides a bleak insight into how the United Kingdom is falling behind other countries when it comes to conducting effective clinical trials for patients.

In addition to the rate of clinical trials dropping dramatically over the past five years, the rate of cancer-specific trials also dropped by over 41%. The news is sure to set alarm bells ringing within the NHS and at Westminster – clinical trials not only provide better outcomes for patients but also bring in money for the economy.

Further details of the report

While the 41% rate drop in clinical trials is the most striking news to come out of the report, the bad news doesn’t end there.

The number of phase III industry trials (trials with medicines on the verge of being released to the wider market) fell by 48%. This means that patients in the UK no longer have adequate access to treatment that is on the verge of being approved. This could be the difference between life and death in some cases.

The United Kindom is no longer in the top five countries in the world for conducting late-stage clinical research. In terms of phase II trials (trials which tell doctors more about how safe the treatment is and how well it works), they dropped from 2nd place to 6th place.

In terms of the phase III trials, they dropped from 4th to 10th in the world rankings. This is certainly an alarming drop for a country that prides itself on its health service.

Finally, access to industry clinical trials on the National Institute for Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN) also took a significant dip. In 2017/18, 50,112 patients took part in a trial on this network, while in 2021/22 the figure was only 28,193. This is a total drop of 44%.

The reason for these dips

The obvious explanation for this drop-off is the Coronavirus pandemic, which has swamped the NHS since 2020. There is more to it than that, though, as can be seen by the fact the United Kingdom has dropped below other countries in this regard.

The report concluded that slow study set-up times and drawn-out recruitment processes are making pharmaceutical companies look elsewhere when searching for countries to take their trials. These thoughts were also echoed in Curia’s recent inquiry of the NHS Innovation & Life Sciences Commission.

Evidence of these drawn-out processes can be seen through the fact that, on average, the time between applying for regulatory approval and the treatment being given to a patient currently stands at 247 days. There are six countries in the world with quicker turnaround times than this.

For the 3.5 million people living with rare diseases in the UK, this is not acceptable.

The future of clinical trials

The ABPI has outlined a number of actions that must take place in the United Kingdom over the next six months to stabilise clinical trial activity in the country. These include:

  • An introduction of a 60-day maximum timeframe for costing and contracting commercial contract research.
  • NHS England ensuring all NHS Trusts are committed to prices generated by the interactive Costing Tool for commercial contract research.
  • NHS incorporating best practices in research finance into its upcoming research guidance for Integrated Care systems.

A comment from the ABPI

The Chief Executive of the ABPI, Richard Torbett, hasn’t attempted to sugarcoat the results of the report and has said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline in late-stage industry clinical research in the UK, compared to its global peers.

The time it takes to set up trials and recruit patients in the UK is out of line with our global competitors and is moving in the wrong direction. As a result of this, and growing commercial pressures, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking elsewhere when choosing where to develop and launch new medicines and vaccines.

“Reversing this trend will take close partnership between industry and Government, NHS and our system partners.  It’s essential that we tackle the urgent challenges facing the life sciences industry to prevent the UK falling further behind its global competitors.”

Final thought

As we come out the other end of the Coronavirus pandemic, the NHS and the UK government must come together to focus their funding on innovative clinical trials. Bucking this current trend should be a top priority for whoever the next Prime Minister is.

Share

Related Topics

Latest

Video Features

On the Campaign Trail with Sian Berry: The Green Party Hoping to Becoming a Fighting Force

On the Campaign Trail: In Conversation with Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Victoria Collins

On the Campaign Trail with Labour's Darren Rodwell: A Lifelong Commitment to Barking and Dagenham

Insights from greater:SATX on UK-Texas Trade Deal and Cybersecurity Collaboration

Subscribe to our newsletter for your free digital copy of the journal!

Receive our latest insights, future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Never miss an issue by subcribing to our newsletter!

Receive our latest insights and all future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Never miss an issue by subcribing to our newsletter!

Receive our latest insights and all future journals as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup

Receive our latest insights as soon as they are published and get invited to our exclusive events and webinars.

Newsletter Signups
?
?

We respect your privacy and will not share your email address with any third party. Your personal data will be collected and handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy.