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UK government commissions independent review into clinical trials

The last five years have seen a 44% drop in commercial clinical trial recruitment in the UK

UK flag in front of London

An independent review of the UK's commercial clinical trial landscape will soon be conducted by former health minister Lord James O’Shaughnessy, the government’s Office for Life Sciences announced.

O’Shaughnessy, a senior partner at consultancy firm Newmarket Strategy and board member of Health Data Research UK, will make recommendations on how commercial clinical trials can aid the life sciences sector in unlocking UK growth and investment opportunities, as well as offer his advice on how to resolve key challenges in conducting commercial clinical trials in the UK.

George Freeman, minister for state at the new government department for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “Commercial clinical trials are absolutely vital to both our UK life sciences sector and widening NHS patient access to innovative medicines all across the UK,” adding that the UK has traditionally been a “strong global location for trials”.

However, as reported by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), there has been a 44% drop in the number of participants recruited to commercial clinical trials in the last five years, a fall that has been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to O’Shaughnessy’s impending review, the ABPI's director of research policy, Dr Jennifer Harris, said: “Addressing the worrying decline of industry-sponsored clinical research in the NHS is critical if we are to deliver the UK’s ambitions for the life sciences sector and to support NHS recovery.

“The appointment of Lord O’Shaughnessy to carry out this review is an important recognition that we need to act decisively to reverse this negative trend.”

Harris added that the ABPI will be working closely with its members and Lord O’Shaughnessy to provide practical solutions for delivering “the systemwide reform needed to rebuild our global competitiveness and support NHS patients”.

O’Shaughnessy is set to publish his advice this spring, which will include actions that can be taken to make progress in 2023, as well as longer-term ambitions for UK clinical trials.

Health minister, Will Quince, said: “This review will help us to find new ways to conduct commercial clinical trials that will speed up diagnosis, enhance treatment and enable the NHS to deliver world-class care, as well as cementing our position as a life sciences super power.

“The UK continues to lead the way in ground-breaking research and I look forward to receiving Lord O’Shaughnessy’s recommendations."

Article by
Emily Kimber

22nd February 2023

From: Research



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