General practitioners could be offered bonuses to increase the number of patients in clinical trials | Medical research
General practitioners could be offered financial incentives to help recruit patients for clinical trials under ambitious government plans to quadruple the number of participants in commercial clinical trials over the next four years.
Unveiling a package of measures for Britain’s life sciences sector, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said patients would have faster access to new medicines and the government would reduce the bureaucratic burden of approving clinical trials, who has been blamed for a rapid decline in the NHS. based on trials for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease drugs. Other measures announced include funding for an upgrade of Britain’s biobank and details of a proposed rail route between Oxford and Cambridge.
“It’s a very important part of offering life science companies that they don’t just do their R&D [research and development] here, but they are able to test their drugs on human beings,” Hunt said. “The data you get from it is the most valuable of all.”
The new policies aim to reverse a slump in commercial clinical trials in the NHS, with a 44% drop in participants recruited since before the pandemic, from over 50,000 in 2017 to around 28,000 in 2021. UK loses also ground against countries such as Spain, Poland and Australia.
A government-commissioned review into the wane, led by former health minister James O’Shaughnessy, will be released on Friday and sets out a series of ambitious targets. This includes the target – which the government has agreed to – of doubling patient participation in commercial trials within two years and doubling the number again by 2027.
To achieve this, the review recommends offering financial incentives to GPs to increase recruitment through primary care and using the NHS app to inform patients about trials in their area.
It also calls for an overhaul of a slow regulatory process, highlighting backlogs at regulator level and in bespoke processes for setting up and costing trials used by many trusts.
The latest performance data shows that the Medicines and Health Products Regulator (MHRA) is now taking around 110 days to secure clinical trial approvals, double the time it took a year ago. The government said it was pushing for a nationwide ‘one contract’ approach and was allocating an additional £3m to the MHRA to help it meet the target of a 60-day lead time for all clinical trial approvals.
“We are doing everything we can to regain the brilliant support for clinical trials that we had during the pandemic,” Hunt said. “We know what we are capable of in the NHS.”
Hunt added that overall pressures on the NHS may have contributed. “I don’t think it’s a secret that it’s been a time of very high pressure in the NHS with the backlog, post-pandemic, with a workforce that has shown such incredible commitment to the pandemic but which is pretty exhausted,” he said.
Separately, the Treasury said it would provide £150 million in funding to expand the UK biobank, including a move to a new facility in Manchester with a robotic freezer that stores and retrieves 20 million biological samples that were donated by the 500,000 volunteer participants of the UK Biobank. A “Yellow Card” pilot biobank, jointly managed by the MHRA and Genomics England, has also been announced. The database will contain genetic data and patient samples and will work alongside the MHRA’s yellow card reporting system for suspected side effects and adverse incidents involving medicines and medical devices.
Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: “Today’s announcements show that the government recognizes the huge opportunity that awaits if the UK can unlock the economic potential of its life sciences industry – which is already worth £94.2bn in 2021. These moves demonstrate the government has listened to industry and will help put the UK on the right track to achieve its vision of life sciences.
“Lord O’Shaughnessy is right that making the UK an attractive destination for industry clinical trials requires regulatory reform, faster study set-up and approvals, and better access to data. .”