Updated on 19 November 2012
New Zealand really needs to push harder to liven its clinical trials sector
New Zealand is taking steps to improve the environment surrounding the country's clinical trial domain. With no accurate records of revenues being generated from clinical trials in the country until now, New Zealand is taking measures to streamline the entire system. This year, it initiated an electronic process for submission of applications for review by the clinical trials ethics committee. An innovation hub has also been established by the government to nurture new healthcare technologies and ensure their adoption in the country.
The changes were triggered by a report from the Health Select Committee of New Zealand in June 2011. The report, titled 'Inquiry into improving New Zealand's environment to support innovation through clinical trials', made detailed recommendations on steps that need to be taken by the government to strengthen the clinical trials industry. The government, which responded to the report in three months, agreed to most of the recommendations made by the committee.
The changes already introduced have led to improved operating procedures, fewer duplications and clearly defined time lines. Dr Paul Hutchison, chair of the Health Select Committee that made the recommendations, said he has received positive responses on the new electronic process introduced. "Comments that I have received are that the New Zealand's system is now one of the best in the world in terms of efficiency, while maintaining the vital function of a robust ethical system," he said.
The New Zealand Health Innovation Hub is a partnership of the four major district health boards and aims to further include other district boards, crown research institutes, universities and the private industry. Given that the private and public expenditure on health in New Zealand is over $18 billion, there is a huge opportunity to harness innovation. The hub, which is initially funded by the central government, aims to become self-sustaining within five years. In another initiative, various government bodies are working together with chief scientific adviser to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman, to develop a national health research framework.
Dr Hutchison said the recommendations aim to simplify and streamline ethical review processes; promote collaboration between government departments to coordinate the system; develop a national health research action plan to foster innovation and commercialization; and develop a framework for clinical trial research throughout district health boards, to be facilitated by a hub. "The government has made a good start in implementing the key recommendations but I believe it will take 12 months or more for international sponsors of clinical research to fully realize significant helpful changes have been made. I have no doubt that the environment for carrying out clinical trials has already changed for the better, but it is vital that we continue to aspire to be the best place in the world for the type of trials that suit our population," he said.