Updated on 19 November 2012
Cranleigh Health, the health specialist arm of Cranleigh that provides corporate advisory and investment banking services to private and public sectors clients, estimates that by 2020, New Zealand could generate $250 million as revenue annually from clinical trials for basic medical research and attract $50 million from other sources.
Roche, one of the largest investors in clinical research in New Zealand, invested about $12.19 million (NZ$15 million) in 2011 in clinical research in the country. Ms Jan Campbell, director medical affairs, Roche Products, New Zealand, said the ethical committee changes are "a very positive development, ensuring robust ethical review but making the process slicker, more transparent, and efficient."
Ms Claire Henderson, clinical research manager, ANZ, global clinical trial operations, Merck, agrees with Ms Campbell's views. "Changes to the ethics committee have been very positive and we are already seeing greater transparency and accountability, and generally a more professional process. This is leading to faster study start-up and enhanced interest in placing studies in New Zealand," she said.
The next step is improvements at the level of the district health boards and hospitals. Although some hospitals have well organized systems, resource gaps remain at some boards and the lack of clinical trial infrastructure certainly turns some doctors away from getting involved in clinical studies. "We would also like to see more willingness from district health boards to work together to allow greater access to clinical trials for patients outside their region. Being a small country, we cannot always place trials in every hospital, but would like to see all hospitals willing and able to accept patients from outside their board region, particularly in the area of oncology and other life-threatening conditions where the study offering may be far better than currently available or funded treatments in New Zealand," said Ms Henderson.
Ms Campbell said investments in the district health boards could minimize bureaucracy and costs that limit patient access to trial programs and would provide infrastructure for DHB doctors and nurses to dedicate more time to clinical trials.
The keenness to bring in changes has certainly made the future of clinical trials look bright for New Zealand. Mr Kevin Sheehy, general manager, Medicines New Zealand, said, growth in the clinical research industry has many benefits. "It provides early access to new medicines, better evidence on which to base funding decisions on medicine, and it creates a major incentive to aid clinical staff recruitment and retention," he said. Ms Henderson said from employment perspective, "we are already seeing a need to grow our local team, providing job opportunities for our science graduates". But most importantly, it means greater access to world-class medicines for New Zealand patients.