Ireland is lagging in attracting clinical trials, report finds

24 May 2022

Image: © ashtproductions/

Of the clinical trials carried out in three peer countries, only 18pc were carried out in Ireland compared to 53pc in Denmark and 29pc in Finland.

Ireland is attracting fewer clinical trials than some other similar-sized European countries despite being a manufacturing hub for the biopharmaceutical industry, a new report has found.

The Clinical Trials Performance Survey by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA) collected and analysed clinical trial data between 2013 and 2021 from a database provided by the US Library of Medicine.

The IPHA survey found that Finland and Denmark, which have similar populations and economies to Ireland, were significantly ahead in the number of clinical trials conducted.

Of the 2,290 clinical trials carried out in the three countries, 53pc were conducted in Denmark and 29pc in Finland. Only 18pc were conducted in Ireland.

This is despite Ireland being a strong hub for biopharmaceutical manufacturing in Europe, playing host to most of the world’s top biotech and pharma companies including Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Pfizer and Novartis.

Standardisation required

Dr Rebecca Cramp, IPHA director of code and regulatory affairs, said that Ireland should attract more clinical trials given the size of its biopharmaceutical manufacturing footprint.

“Ireland should aim to be a leader in clinical trials in Europe. This survey shows we are some distance off realising that goal,” she added.

Cramp said that further standardisation of the clinical trials space will help Ireland catch up with the likes of Finland and Denmark in hosting the important studies that help give people access to life-saving treatments.

The IPHA has already made moves to standardise Ireland’s approach to conducting clinical research through the Model Clinical Trial Agreement introduced last year.

“Standardisation means speed – the number of rounds of discussion and review for contracts should be reduced. That, in turn, should reduce the administrative and financial burden for hospitals and companies,” Cramp said.

“It should cut the time needed to start clinical trials, making us more competitive in attracting trials. But these measures, on their own, won’t be enough.”

The IPHA is recommending reforms such as standardising the clinical trial start-up requirements, including those that relate to data protection, as well as timelines for hospitals.

Each hospital should also have designated clinical trial signatories with a standard sign-off process, and all teaching hospitals should appoint a permanent clinical research nurse.

The IPHA said that ring-fencing clinical trial funding and protecting dedicated research time should help Ireland gain the momentum it needs to bring the health of its clinical trial space up to the same level as its thriving pharma industry.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic