Boosting economic profile and competitive position of the clinical trials sector, new report

Health Industry Hub | May 21, 2021 |
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Medical News: MTPConnect marks International Clinical Trials Day 2021 with the release of a new report that reveals the size and scope of Australia’s clinical trials sector and opportunities for future growth.

The Australia’s Clinical Trials Sector: Advancing innovative healthcare and powering economic growth report (download below) reveals that clinical trials contributed $1.4 billion to the Australian economy through direct expenditure or investment in 2019 and that the sector now employs more than 8,000 Australians. It also details that 95,000 Australians participated in clinical trials in 2019, which saw around 1,880 trials started to advance medical knowledge and provide early access to potentially life-saving new treatments or medical interventions.

MTPConnect Managing Director & CEO, Dr Dan Grant, says the report celebrates one of the country’s most important sectors.

“Australia’s clinical trials sector is large and vibrant, impacting lives and livelihoods, yet it is sometimes overlooked for the contribution it makes to our country,” Dr Grant said.

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“Clinical trials are an essential part of health and medical research and can lead to better health outcomes for patients. Not only that, but the sector sustains thousands of jobs and is a major contributor to economic growth, generating significant services export revenue.

“Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a window of opportunity to further strengthen our reputation as a clinical trials destination of choice. We are one of the few countries in the world with a sophisticated healthcare system where many COVID-19 related restrictions have been lifted or eased, which means we have the opportunity to attract even greater numbers of clinical trials to Australia,” Dr Grant continued.

Liz de Somer, Chief Executive Officer, Medicines Australia told Health Industry Hub “On International Clinical Trials Day, it’s important to recognise that millions of lifesaving COVID vaccines are being administered globally, in large part thanks to clinical trials. Australia is highly regarded among the international R&D community for clinical trials. The industry and clinical sector know that clinical trials could be a keystone of Australia’s economic recovery, providing access to advancing science and technology for patients and providing more jobs and infrastructure in health. But more work is required to build on this opportunity.

“Australia has world class scientific and research infrastructure. However, inconsistent regulatory and governance systems across Australia, leading to slow start up times and poor patient recruitment, are key reasons why Australia is losing its competitive edge.

“Right now, the pandemic is stifling the progress of trials overseas. Australia is ideally placed to increase clinical trials in Australia and supporting our R&D partners in these affected countries to help progress research and innovation for new vaccines, medicines and technologies.

“Investing in clinical trials in Australia leads to better health outcomes for patients as well as significant flow-on benefits such as employment, improved standards of care, sector skill development and economic growth.

“Recent announcements regarding investments for regenerative medicines and mRNA technology will be underpinned by a robust clinical trials sector and this should be encouraged,” she added.

Dr Grant continued “Over the next 10 years, we have identified four emerging opportunities to capture a greater share of global clinical trials and grow the sector more rapidly. These relate to building our capability in precision healthcare in trials and undertaking innovative clinical trial design, applying digital health innovations to enhance patient recruitment and achieve efficiencies, and an increased focus on patient awareness and engagement to increase recruitment.”

Dr Grant warned that we cannot take our eye off the key priorities identified in the report as they will strengthen the trajectory of this sector over the next decade.

“We must continue to optimise efficiency in ethics and governance processes towards a single ethical review and we must address the shortage of highly skilled and experienced Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) and Clinical Trial Coordinators (CTCs),” Dr Grant said.

“Improving the ease and scale of patient recruitment by increasing patient awareness and engagement and using patient-centric approaches like decentralised trials and digital health technologies will also be important to remain globally competitive. And we need to capture more detailed data and systemise reporting and tracking of our performance.

“Australia is well-placed to leverage its competitive advantages and continue growing its clinical trials sector, out-compete other countries for foreign investment, create skilled jobs and deliver sustained health benefits for Australians.”

“So as we celebrate International Clinical Trials Day and mark the work of Dr James Lind and his scurvy experiments with oranges and lemons onboard the HMS Salisbury in 1747, we thank the thousands of patients who volunteer every year to be involved in clinical research and the 8,000 people working on clinical trial programs around Australia,” he concluded.

The report was developed through extensive and whole-of-sector stakeholder engagement, including an Advisory Group convened to guide the scope of the report, as well as AusBiotech, Medicines Australia, Medical Technology Association of Australia and the Research & Development Taskforce.

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