Friday 24 May 2019

Irish patients facing long delays to get on clinical drug trials

Stock photo. Credit: AP
Stock photo. Credit: AP

Eilish O’Regan

It takes about eight months to recruit the first patient into a clinical drug trial in Ireland- significantly longer than in other countries, a conference was told today.

The survey by the Irish Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association (IPHA) – representing big drug firms – was based on  90 trials set up between 2013 and 2018 across eleven therapy areas.

In other countries, such as Denmark, the same process takes just  six months.

The conference was told that Ireland can have a lead role for clinical trials in Europe.

It was held ahead of International Clinical Trials Week.

Speaking at an event hosted by HRB-CRCI, in the Mansion House, Dublin, Dr Itziar Canamasas, Managing Director of the global life sciences company, Bayer, and representing IPHA urged clinicians, policymakers, patients and the innovator industry to continue to work together on steps that can improve Ireland’s performance on clinical trials.

Dr Canamasas said, “All of the key stakeholders including industry, must actively collaborative together to realise our shared ambition to make Ireland a leading location for clinical trials.

“We can draw on our strong base of international pharmaceutical companies and highly regarded healthcare professionals who are experts in managing clinical trials together with a supportive public policy environment,” she added.

Patients have been shown to have significantly better outcomes by taking part in clinical trials.

“As well as the positive human health impact, clinical trials enhance the value proposition for innovation on which Ireland needs to keep working to secure future global investment in manufacturing and discovery activity against significant competition,” she said.

The IPHA  said if Ireland is to improve its clinical trials performance it should  have a standardisation of site contracts (the Clinical Trial Agreement) that is standard in a number of other EU countries. This will shorten delays and save on legal fees for both hospitals and companies.

There is a need for protected research time for clinicians and hospital staff.

There must be realistic targets for clinical trials that are achievable and can be relied upon. This means meeting a lower target is better than partially meeting a higher target.

Delegates at the conference,organised by the Health Research Board Clinical Research Coordination Ireland, were told some 423 clinical trials in medicines and medical devices offering patient access to innovative therapies are currently open in Ireland.

The organisation’s chief executive Prof Pat O’ Mahony said a well-resourced and scaled up national infrastructure for clinical research offers more opportunity for patients to participate in trials, which provides for better patient outcomes overall.

“Other countries that have more mature and resourced clinical research approaches, such as Australia, have clearly shown that the benefit-to-cost ratio for clinical trials is almost $6 for every Australian dollar invested.

“In fact, a recent report, which looked at combined data from 25 trials, showed that for every $1 awarded in grants across the 25 trials, a return of $51.10 was achieved.”

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