Clinical trials for new drugs in the UK are becoming too expensive for companies to carry them out, according to a new report.
The strong tradition of NHS clinical trials is growing weaker: the number of clinical trial applications in the UK fell from 1,484 in 2004 to 947 in 2011.
The study, produced for Novartis by Europe Economics, blames this decline on a lack of national organisation and poor support from hospital trusts.
A clinical trial in the UK now costs an average of €9,758 (£7,890) per patient, compared with €7,232 in Germany, €7,310 in Spain or €5,810 in Italy.
The reason for the higher UK cost, the report argues, is that trusts draw out negotiations and charge additional fees on top of the costing template.
In addition, the lack of a national system means that recruiting participants in UK drug trials is difficult: only 55% trials reach their target recruitment rate of 90%, compared to 100% in Spain and 77% in Poland.
The report calls for a “cultural shift” in the NHS towards recognition that supporting clinical trials is a responsibility for all organisations.
At present, the report argues, hospital trusts trend to see clinical trial approval as “someone else’s job” – or else to charge a high price for getting involved.
One possible solution proposed by the report is a ‘hub and spoke’ model of trial organisation, with a national centre providing the administration and hospital trusts recruiting local participants.
Sue Webb, UK Country President at Novartis, said: “We invest over £2m a week in R&D and clinical trials in the UK. We want to work with the NHS, government, and academia to make the UK an attractive place for clinical trials, which ultimately helps patients get access to innovative medicines.”