UK missing out on being a 'life-sciences superpower' as participant numbers plummet due to lack of incentives

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Clinical trials Data management Patient centricity patient engagement Patient recruitment Research

The UK has the tools to become a life-sciences superpower but those thinking about taking part remain put off by the lack of financial motivation, a clinical trials start-up says.

Data released today comes from Lindus Health, who conducted a survey via research company Prolific. They say the information provides policymakers with an understanding of how to help get the UK back on track to fulfil its ambitions to be a life sciences superpower.

Their research found that two-thirds, or 68% of those in the UK would take part in a clinical trial to help discover new treatments – but that payment was key. They also found that half of those surveyed would be willing to take part in an early phase clinical trial.

As well as financial payment, the other most popular motivations for taking part included discovering new treatments and the importance of clinical research.

Michael Young, co-founder of Lindus Health, said: “Clinical trials are crucial to the process of discovering cutting-edge treatments that can save lives.

“The UK has the tools to be a life sciences superpower, including citizens willing to participate in clinical research - yet the number of clinical trials is nose diving and 9 in 10 people here have never taken part in one.

 “From failing to give participants the financial compensation and flexibility they need, to a cumbersome process that requires far too much time and effort, the old-fashioned clinical trials industry is holding back the development of life-changing treatments.”

The company said that despite this willingness, more than 9 in 10 of people living in the UK have never taken part in a trial, which they say suggests there is huge untapped potential for trial recruitment.

The researchers found that key concerns for participants included safety and health, the time and effort required, and a lack of job flexibility. They said that between 2017 and 2021 there was a 44% drop in participants recruited to commercial clinical trials - which is currently being investigated in an independent government review of the UK clinical trials landscape.

It was also discovered that amongst Black, African and Caribbean respondents, a lack of trust is one of the top barriers to taking part in an early phase clinical trial, yet this group is still more likely to have previously taken part in clinical trials at any stage.

Lindus Health conducted their own research with Prolific on the back of statistics from the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry showed that the number of clinical trials in the UK has plummeted, with the UK falling behind globally - especially for phase three trials.

The survey was carried out online in collaboration with Prolific between 16 March and 23 September 2022. There were 1,049 respondents.

Other information uncovered included the number of trials initiated in the UK fell by 41% between 2017 and 2021. In the UK, fewer phase 1 trials are carried out than in the US, China and Australia. For Phase III, the UK is lagging behind countries including Spain, France, Germany, Poland and Italy. Cancer trials have seen the biggest fall in numbers in the UK.

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