Drug companies want academic and medical providers to run their clinical trials

In recent years, most global clinical trials have been conducted developing countries where regulatory approval is easier, costs are lower and where populations are “treatment naïve”, having not been exposed to western drugs.

Now, Professor Charles Craddock and Dame Julie Moore, chief executive of the Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust are supporting Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital bid to put its research and patient database at the service of international drug companies in a bid to make the city a preferred location for clinical trials.

The Financial Times reports that Birmingham already had more than 6,000 people in trials of around 160 drugs or therapies last year.

Marek Dobrowolski of Marketing Birmingham says drug companies want academic and medical providers to run the clinical trials, rather than taking on the cost and complexity of organising trials themselves, adding: “The strength of our universities and NHS facilities means these companies can easily tap into our hospitals and specialist staff rather than creating their own teams.”

Corporate–political nexus

David Cameron has urged all NHS trusts to work more closely with industry. In the government’s Investing in UK Health and Life Sciences policy document published in December, Prof Craddock’s centre is held up as a role model.

The QE and the University of Birmingham medical school, have already collaborated with GSK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bayer and Novartis, whose products have caused serious health problems for many in the past.

Ethnically diverse population could provide drug companies with a perfect test bed 

Professor Craddock says, “With an ethnically diverse population of 6m people stretching from Worcester to Stoke-on-Trent, the region could provide drug companies with a perfect test bed to measure the safety and efficacy of new products and treatments in so-called early-stage drug trials . . .  If somebody came to the trust and said they wanted to test a new blood pressure drug in white men with blue eyes and haemoglobin greater than 15, the trust could find those people, because our IT is so good.”

Plundering computerised patient records 

Patient groups expressed concern that opening patient records would compromise privacy.  “But patients records are already available, with patients’ consent and they’re anonymised,” says Dame Julie.

A carrot is dangled before SMEs – hoping that once again greed will carry the day

Professor Craddock adds that the fallout for small and medium enterprises could be considerable – presumably not a nuclear reference but a surmise that there would be commercial benefits for them – a carrot for organisations like the Chamber of Commerce?