Commercial clinical trials: how does the UK really compare with Europe?

The network supported more than 900 commercial contract studies in the NHS last year

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The number of trials in the UK is increasing, with the Clinical Research Network playing a vital role in supporting the life-sciences industry.

The UK has had its fair share of criticism when it comes to clinical trials delivery. With European counterparts often cited as more reliable, less expensive and quicker to set up, it can be a hard sell to ensure that outdated information is consigned to the past. However, figures released last summer are helping to change perceptions. They show that the performance of commercial contract studies supported by the network is on the up, and the global life-sciences community is starting to take notice.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) figures show a decline in the number of commercial contract clinical studies up to 2011, but more recent figures show that since then, the number of commercial phase II-IV studies has risen from 497 in 2011 to 624 in 2013.

Dr Martin O’Kane is acting head of the clinical trials unit at MHRA. He believes the decline in clinical trials was never as bad in the UK as it was in the rest of Europe and that we are regarded as a proficient nation by commercial companies.

It is not the case that in the past four to five years there has been a decline in the number of commercial trials in the UK. In fact we have seen numbers rise in recent years,” he says.

The UK is currently the single largest competent authority in Europe in terms of applications received and is seen as extremely approachable and competent when it comes to delivery.”

Jonathan Sheffield, chief executive officer of the Clinical Research Network, believes the support on offer to the life-sciences industry from the network has had the upmost effect on the way the UK is viewed when it comes to commercial research.

The network has led the transformation of the clinical research landscape,” he says. “It has made game changing progress for commercial contract research with industry partners telling us that there is a real uplift in the number of commercial studies being awarded to the UK.

The annual statistics released by the network [last] June showed that last year the network was supporting more than 900 commercial contract studies in the NHS – a 31% increase on the previous year and nearly 10 times the number in 2008-09. This is a phenomenal turnaround in a relatively short period of time and one that shows the commercial world that we are here and ready to deliver.”

Continue reading the full article in the NIHR Clinical Research Network’s Insight magazine, Issue 1, December 2014.

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