The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has reported that the number of industry clinical trials started in the UK each year dropped by 41% between 2017 and last year.

Titled ‘Rescuing Patient Access to Industry Clinical Trials in the UK’, the report stated that the trials for cancer were also in this margin.

Between 2017 and 2021, the number of Phase III industry trials started in the country dropped by 48%.

During the same time period, the global rankings for the UK fell from second to sixth in Phase II trials while it dropped to the tenth position, from fourth, in Phase III trials.

Access to industry trials on the National Institute for Health and Care Research Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN) for patients declined to 28,193, from 50,112 between 2017-18 and 2021-22, indicating a decline of 44%.

ABPI noted that this data indicate a threat to the long-term future of industry clinical research in the UK and the advantages it offers to patients, the UK National Health Service (NHS), and the economy of the country.

According to the report, some pharmaceutical firms are forced to conduct their trials in other countries, owing to sluggish and variable trial set-up and recruitment timelines in the NHS.

As a result, UK patients and clinicians have reduced opportunities to obtain access to cutting-edge research. 

ABPI chief executive Richard Torbett said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline in late-stage industry clinical research in the UK, compared to its global peers. 

“The time it takes to set up trials and recruit patients in the UK is out of line with our global competitors and is moving in the wrong direction. 

“As a result of this, and growing commercial pressures, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking elsewhere when choosing where to develop and launch new medicines and vaccines.”