Clinical trials on the increase in Ireland

Offer patients access to innovative therapies
  • Deborah Condon

The number of clinical trials involving medicines and medical devices is on the increase in Ireland, a national seminar has been told.

Currently in Ireland, there are 423 clinical trials offering patient access to innovative therapies, excluding cancer trials supported by Cancer Trials Ireland.

The Health Research Board Clinical Research Coordination Ireland (HRB CRCI) was established in 2014 to help co-ordinate a system that would enable and support more clinical trials in Ireland. According to its latest statistics, since then, there has been a 43% increase in the number of Phase II and Phase III clinical trials approved in Ireland, with 66 such trials authorised in 2014 and 95 authorised in 2018.

There are now 291 trial sites open across the Irish network, which is a 117% increase on the 134 open in 2014.

Meanwhile in 2018, 30 medical device clinical trial studies were ongoing in Ireland. These ranged from locally lead studies which looked at the dosing of self-administered asthma medication to large international industry-sponsored trials on total knee replacements.

Many of these studies require the patient to be followed up for many years, so that the ongoing safety and performance of these devices can be continually evaluated. Other trials simply involve the patient donating a once off blood sample to test for the diagnostic accuracy of a device.

The duration of clinical trials can last from between six months to five years and beyond in some cases.

"Our role is to assist clinical trials' sponsors to identify potential sites and patient pools to conduct clinical trials. This process enables a clinical trial sponsor to identify potential investigator sites and evaluate if they are suitable to conduct a clinical trial, aiming to secure more research opportunities for Irish patients and to ensure that Ireland is recognised internationally as a preferred location for clinical trials," HRB CRCI chairperson, Prof Joe Eustace, told the seminar.

Also speaking at the seminar in the Mansion House in Dublin, HRB chief executive, Dr Darrin Morrissey, emphasised that international evidence shows that clinical research and trials ‘are an essential part of healthcare, rather than an added luxury'.

"In Ireland, there needs to be a concerted effort to embed research at the heart of our health services for the benefit of people's health, patient care and the broader health system," he insisted.

The seminar was held to mark International Clinical Trials Day (May 20) and speaking at the event, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, announced that Ireland has now formally joined the European Clinical Research Infrastructure Network (ECRIN), which offers Ireland new access to clinical research networks throughout Europe.

"ECRIN is a not for profit intergovernmental organisation that supports the conduct of multinational clinical research in Europe. As a member, Irish researchers can benefit from wide-reaching direct access into this important network that links scientific partners and clinical research networks across Europe to facilitate multi-national research.

"The benefits should be far-reaching, resulting in more trials taking place here, and offering greater access for Irish patients to potentially lifesaving and life enhancing therapies. The HRB-CRCI is the national partner to ECRIN for Ireland and I have no doubt they will be seeking to maximise our membership to its fullest," Minister Harris said.

For more information on the HRB CRCI, click here.


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