Updated on 21 January 2016
Clinical research will continue to grow in the Philippines
Clinical research will continue to grow in the Philippines as multinational pharmaceutical firms will remain attracted to the country's low cost base. The large and diverse population has also been a key positive for the country. Many companies taking advantage of this to conduct trials targeting tropical diseases. However, the lack of government support for clinical research will impinge upon the sector's ability to leverage these competitive advantages and fully achieve the country's potential in pharmaceutical research pointed out observers.
In 2014, there were 57 trials registered in the country, of which 70 percent were Phase III trials. This is a significant decline of 29 percent from its peak of 81 trials in 2010, and places the Philippines behind leading destinations such as South Korea, which had 566 registered in 2014. Multinational pharmaceutical firms sponsoring trials in the country include Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the latter of which is comparing the effects of ticagrelor and clopidogrel in patients with peripheral artery disease.
According to industry estimates, a global clinical trial in the country would cost approximately 80 percent of what it would be in the US. This stems from
lower input costs associated with investigator payments, though other factors such as the number of research sites and clinical indications studied will create some variances in the final cost. Moreover, the presence of leading clinical research organizations such as Covance, Novotech and Quintiles will help improve the overall efficiency due to their expertise and economies of scale noted experts. As the world's 12th most populous country in the world, the Philippines has a multi-ethnic population which has often been used to test vaccines to treat tropical diseases.
For example, all three of Sanofi's dengue vaccine clinical trials were conducted in the country. Patient recruitment for clinical trials is also facilitated by hospitals across the country, over 100 of which are experienced in conducting trials. Several healthcare providers have also established offices to serve the needs of pharmaceutical firms sponsoring trials in the country.
Lack of government support
Official strategies in support of the industry have not been articulated or implemented, a stark contrast to other competing hubs in the region. Malaysia for example established Clinical Research Malaysia to facilitate multinational pharmaceutical firms conducting trials in the country. South Korea has a similar institution in its Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials (KoNECT) which has been instrumental in forming partnerships with leading multinational pharmaceutical firms. Moreover, government intervention is also needed to address broader infrastructure challenges which -- given that the Philippines
comprises mostly of islands -- can pose challenges in supplying sites with the required pharmaceuticals.