Independent review of UK clinical trials to reverse decline

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Clinical trial Clinical research ABPI Pharmaceutical industry

With several reports into the UK clinical trial landscape finding serious cause for concern, the government orders a review to “resolve key challenges” facing the sector.

At the beginning of 2023​, the UK’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee reported its finding from an inquiry into the health of clinical research in the country.

The findings concluded that the clinical research environment was on a ‘dangerous precipice’, with the UK likely to lose its standing as an international leader in hosting clinical research. Variously, the reasons behind this decline were found to be workforce challenges, such as difficulty recruiting sufficient levels of consultant clinical academics, and issues over pay.

Towards the end of 2022​, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) also published its own report looking into the space. The association concluded that there was a “clear and serious threat to the long-term future of industry clinical research in the UK.”

Health Data Resarch UK

Beyond providing access to treatments to UK citizens and education to practitioners, the ABPI pointed out that losing ground on clinical trials had cost the country £447m ($498m) in revenue generated by the activity.

As a result of the situation, the UK’s government ordered a review to be headed by James O’Shaughnessy, a former health minister and current board member of Health Data Research UK.

The aim of the review is to offer recommendations on how commercial clinical trials can help the life sciences sector, with an aim to improve UK growth and to determine investment opportunities. In addition, the information gathered will advise on how to resolve some of the challenges facing clinical trials in the UK.

Fall in patient recruitment

George Freeman, the UK’s minister for state in the department of science, innovation, and technology, admitted some of the issues facing the sector, as part of the announcement. “Our life sciences sector has reported a 44% fall in recruitment of patients to commercial clinical trials between 2017 and 2021 – so it is vital that we act to rebuild competitiveness,” he outlined.

Outside of the recruitment issues, the actual number of industry clinical trials initiated in the UK also fell by 41% during the same period.

O’Shaughnessy will publish his advice for action based on the review during spring. According to the government, the review will include priority action recommendations to be taken during 2023, as well as longer-term plans for UK clinical trials.

Related topics Clinical Development

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