Ireland needs to step up clinical research to boost therapies for patients – report

Each patient in a clinical trial will generate a benefit of about €13,500 to economy

Matt Moran, director, BioPharmaChem Ireland, Ciara Peters, project manager, CRDI, Prof Pat O’Mahony, chief executive, CRDI and chair of future investment in clinical research steering committee at the launch of a strategic report, Future Investment in Clinical Research, in Dublin. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

Matt Moran, director, BioPharmaChem Ireland, Ciara Peters, project manager, CRDI, Prof Pat O’Mahony, chief executive, CRDI and chair of future investment in clinical research steering committee at the launch of a strategic report, Future Investment in Clinical Research, in Dublin. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

 

A joint Government and industry funded programme to scale up clinical research in Ireland would offer much more opportunity for patients to participate in clinical trials and to avail of new therapies, while ensuring better treatment outcomes, according a report issued on Monday.

The Future Investment in Clinical Research report calls for a major step-change to enable Ireland to increase its clinical research capability fourfold over the next five years.

It was drawn up by experts in clinical research: patient representative bodies, academia, clinical research centres, specialists in healthcare delivery, funding agencies and the biopharma and medtech industries.

Their report concludes a programme “to enhance and scale up the national clinical research infrastructure . . . would deliver a significant increase in the number of international and multi-centre clinical trials conducted in Ireland”.

“This would ensure increased access to new emerging therapies for Irish patients . . . generating an additional 3,000 direct and indirect jobs with gross value added of €200 to €300 million per annum,” it adds.

The report, outlined at a seminar in Dublin, contends a well-resourced and functioning clinical research system should be a fundamental component of the overall healthcare system, benefiting patients, healthcare delivery, research and academia.

“It is proven internationally that the more research-active a national health system is, the better the outcomes for patients. It is also a unique selling point for the very large life sciences sector operating here in Ireland,” it says.

While acknowledging substantial investment made to date by Government in clinical research, it says an integrated Irish clinical research system is needed to drive excellence and innovation. It recommends an initial investment of €22 million in clinical research in the first year, and confirms Biopharma and MedTech industries would match that investment.

On average, each patient participating in a clinical trial will generate a benefit of €13,500 to the economy. Additionally, the health service benefits from medicines worth an average of €5,899 per patient for those participating in clinical trials, it says.

In 2018, an estimated 500 Irish patients were recruited into clinical trials of medicinal products for 24 months, which had estimated annual revenues and savings to the health service of €7.5 million and €5.9 million, respectively. “Clinical research is a labour-intensive activity undertaken by a highly skilled and educated workforce. It has the potential to become a key feature of Ireland’s knowledge economy,” the report notes.

“Ireland is doing about a quarter of what we should be doing in the realm of Clinical Research – for example, in Denmark, which has the same population as Ireland, four times the number of clinical trials take place,” according to Prof Pat O’Mahony, chief executive of Clinical Research Development Ireland.

“Our life sciences sector has grown rapidly over the past half-century, to a point where it now has global significance. However, our clinical research system, infrastructure or performance do not compare with our growth in the manufacturing sector,” he added.

Patient outcomes were always better in countries where clinical research was further advanced. For Ireland to emulate that success, further collaboration and investment was required, Prof O’Mahony said.

Participation by patients in clinical research means “the possibility of innovative medicines sooner, better healthcare and the possibility to make a difference for others with the same health issues”, said Avril Kennan, chief executive of the Medical Research Charities Group.

Too few patients were currently offered the possibility off taking part, she said. “Investment in the clinical research system will bring economic benefits, will help boost a beleaguered HSE staff and, most importantly, will lead to better health and quality of life for the Irish people. The report represents not some vague hope for the future but the potential to make a real difference to our parents, our children, our friends and all those we hold dear.”