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Australian clinical trials threatened: Jobs and patient access to new treatments at stake

Last week's Pharmaceutical Industry Council R&D Taskforce forum demonstrated that Australian clinical research is facing challenging times. AccessCR is encouraging increased government support for and community participation in trials, in order to increase trial activity, by championing the 2009 Clinical Trials Honour Roll, designed to recognise all that have contributed to clinical trials in Australia over the past year.

Australia is losing its attractiveness as a prime location for running clinical trials. Urgent steps are required to retain trials in Australia in order to ensure ongoing employment opportunities, the quality of the healthcare system and most importantly early access for patients to new treatments. This is due to competition from Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, where trials can be run less expensively and there are more people willing to volunteer. This means the 30,000 plus patients, employees and organisations that currently derive benefit from Australian clinical research each year may no longer have access to the same treatments, research, or employment opportunities that people in India and China, for example, increasingly enjoy.

AccessCR's 2009 Clinical Trials Honour Roll recognises all the individuals and organisations that register themselves or others before 12th May for their contribution to Australasian clinical research. The Honour Roll will be used to highlight to the government the need for increased support of the Australian clinical trials industry, and publicly published 20th May 2009 in celebration of International Clinical Trials Day.

Over 10,000 professionals and organisations contribute to the infrastructure, funding and running of clinical trials in Australia, representing a significant workforce from a variety of science, medical, statistics and related backgrounds, and increasingly marketing, telecommunications and IT industries.

An estimated 20,000 people volunteer to participate in over 700 clinical trials in Australia each year, personally reaping the benefits of access to breakthrough treatments early and typically better outcomes as a direct result of the increased medical care and attention they receive, at no cost.

Clinical trials also benefit the entire public healthcare system as the costs of treatment for trial volunteers with conditions such as cancer, stroke, heart disease are covered by the clinical trial sponsors. Additionally, the patients of organisations that run clinical trials generally have better outcomes as a result of the culture of improvement that involvement in research develops.

A loss of trials from Australia therefore means individual patients would no longer benefit from early access to new treatments and better medical care, the cost of treatment for the patients that would otherwise have participated in trials would be returned to public system (adding further pressure to strained healthcare budgets and resources), and the research culture would be lost. Further, there would be reduced research and employment opportunities for highly trained scientific and medical professionals across commercial, academic and medical/research settings, further exacerbating the brain drain overseas.

"Trials are important to me not only because of my professional involvement, but because I too might someday get sick and want access to the latest medical advancements. I fear however, that in the future, patients overseas will get access to new treatments well before they are available in Australia if we don't do something now to improve Australian government support of and community participation in trials. Sadly, I suspect it won't be until patients visit their doctors looking for solutions and find out some great treatments are being trialled outside of Australia, that they will realise just what a tragedy the disappearance of trials from this country is. But by then, it will be too late," said Dr Janelle Bowden, Managing Director, AccessCR.

"The availability of clinical trials in Australia should be important to every Australian that ever visits a doctor. I urge any person or organisation that has contributed in any way to clinical trials in Australia over the past year to register on the 2009 Clinical Trials Honour Roll in support of maintaining Australia's reputation as a quality, efficient location for the conduct of clinical trials."


Contact: Dr. Janelle Bowden
Research Australia

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