The negative impact of the Covid-19 on clinical research in the UK can be transformed if the nation adopts the innovative approaches taken during the pandemic, says a new report from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
The pandemic showed the UK’s massive potential as a global leader in clinical research, with 68 commercial Covid-19 trials initiated in 2020 – the most in Europe and third only to the United States and Brazil.
However, this focus has negatively impacted on research in other areas, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, with clinical trials paused during the early stages of the pandemic and continued disruption since.
The UK’s research efforts are also recovering more slowly than other similar countries in Europe, including Spain and Italy, which were also hit hard in the pandemic, says the report. The UK has fallen down the global rankings in all phases of clinical trials in 2020.
The figures are from the ABPI’s third annual report: Clinical research in the UK: an opportunity for growth, which makes recommendations on rebuilding clinical research in the UK.
Adopting innovative research design and delivery approaches, as seen during the pandemic and embedding a culture of research across the health service, will not only benefit the NHS and its patients, but significantly contribute to the Government’s ambition to level up the country and address health inequalities, say the authors.
Commercial clinical research contributes significant economic benefits, generating an estimated income of £355 million for the NHS in England in 2018/2019 and a total estimated cost saving to the NHS of £28.6 million in the same year, the report says. In contrast, the loss of commercial research across NHS Trusts during the pandemic is estimated to have generated a loss to the NHS of up to £447 million in total in 2020/2021.
To help revitalise the UK’s research base the report says that the new Health and Care Bill must mandate that Integrated Care Systems ensure that the NHS organisations for which they are responsible conduct and resource clinical research.
The report also suggests using the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021 to mandate rapid timelines for regulatory approvals and reform clinical trial regulation.