Morocco vying for clinical trial attention
countries such as India, Morocco wants its share has been making
efforts to make itself attractive to international trial sponsors.
Until 2000 Morocco was virtually inactive in the clinical trials arena, delegates heard at the recent Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) conference in Brussels.
"The problem with Morocco was that we were lacking in all areas in regards to clinical trials - we had an absence of clinical research, methodology, biostatistics, ethics committees etc," said Professor Ali Benomar from the Center of Research in Epidemiology Study and Clinical Trials at Mohammed V-Souissi University in Rabat, Morocco.
Recognising Morocco's shortcomings in the field, the university's Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacology began building up its skill base with the creation in 2000 of the Unity of Biostatistics, as well as the formation of a group of clinical trainers and the Workshop of Biostatistics and Methodology for professors in different specialties.
In 2001, the country's first Laboratory of Biostatistics and Methodology of Clinical Research was also established.
As a result, for the first Morocco was able to seriously develop clinical protocols and methodology of drafting of research, conduct statistical analysis as well as epidemiological work of studies and also aid to the development of databases, said Professor Benomar.
"Between 2001 and 2004 we ran 245 domestic trials, compared to only seven between 1993 and 2000," he said.
In 2004 Morocco's first ethics committee was formed, "created by the deanship according to Helsinki's rules" which allowed Morocco to begin running its first international clinical trials.
"We now have three industry and two contract research organisation (CRO) partnerships," said Professor Benomar.
"We have had 17 clinical trial protocols approved by the ethics committee in the last four weeks."
Of course running clinical trials in Morocco is not without its problems as the industry is still finding its feet, acknowledges Professor Benomar.
"However, progress is being made in these areas," he said.
Challenges include a shortage of qualified staff, such as clinical research associates (CRAs) and a lack of those who also speak English.
Indeed these are challenges currently being faced by Pharmaceutical Products Development (PPD), one of the CROs that is now operating in Morocco.
"For the moment we are sending our trained staff on short-term stints from France to work on our projects in Morocco," a PPD spokesperson told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.
France is an ideal location to send the staff from because of its close proximity to Morocco and the fact that French is also widely spoken in Morocco.
"However the French Working Time Directive is proving cumbersome because we have to give our staff paid leave when they return to France in return for the extra hours they spent in Morocco," said the spokesperson.
"This means that we are facing very costly salary expenses for our staff in Morocco, however, the cost advantages of operating in Morocco overall still outweigh these extra expenses."