Biopharmaceuticals and the DACH Region: The Availability of Patients in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

31st July 2018 (Last Updated December 3rd, 2018 12:09)

CTA’s Adeola Coker explores why patient recruitment remains a challenge in the DACH region

Biopharmaceuticals and the DACH Region: The Availability of Patients in Austria, Germany and Switzerland

Succeeding in clinical development isn’t an easy task to accomplish. A notoriously complex and expensive process lasting anywhere between 5–15 years, developing a drug has strict and rigid guidelines to pass through before being made available on the market. Although the drug development process is virtually the same across different sponsor organizations, a wide patient pool in which to test the drug is key in determining the success of the trial.

Interestingly, trial sponsors based in the DACH region, home to some of the most recognizable and innovative pharmaceutical companies (i.e. Bayer, Novartis and Roche), face numerous challenges recruiting patients from diverse backgrounds.

As a result, sponsors seek to conduct trials in other regions, predominantly Central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia), Asia (India), and in Africa (Ghana, Nigeria). With concerted efforts being made to recruit patients from further afield, it’s essential sponsors come together with CROs to strategize the best ways in which to recruit patients within the DACH region.

Insured but Unsure Potential Patients

Despite all the challenges sponsors face recruiting patients, the DACH region has excellent health care for its citizens. They are insured and the majority of their citizens can afford a better quality of life. Unfortunately, the likelihood of people volunteering for clinical trials is somewhat lower in these specific regions, simply due to the insurance they pay and their good health care.

Why would they volunteer themselves for a clinical trial when they already have access to a great health care system already? Many other countries like Nigeria, India and the Czech Republic have relatively more fragile health care systems where typically volunteers use clinical trials as an opportunity to gain access to drugs that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them.

What would be the best way to overcome this? Working together with authorities to the DACH public on the benefits of clinical trials is one step in the right direction. The more people hear and understand what the clinical trials are for, the more people will likely volunteer to participate.

Survival of the Fittest

Being one of the most recognizable and innovative biopharmaceutical hubs in Europe, means that there are plenty of biopharma companies that will need patients for their clinical trials. The more sponsors are involved in the production of drugs, the more patients are needed. Therefore competition between these pharmaceuticals to acquire patients grows as the clinical trial progresses.

Each biopharma company performing a clinical trial will need to explain to each participants why they should be part of their trial, sell why their trial will be valuable, and have their best interests at heart. Making patients understand the importance of your drug is likely the most effective way to ensure they are retained.

Of course with the rest of the world, patient recruitment has always seemed to be a continuous issue, but hopefully, as more technology and easier methods are put in place, more DACH patients will take an interest, all in the name of science.