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February 20, 2009-WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO), which represents the clinical outsourcing industry to regulators, biopharmaceutical clients, policy makers and the public in the U.S. and worldwide, issued the following comment on the article “Ethical and Scientific Implications of the Globalization of Clinical Research” published in the February 19, 2009 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine:
The article by Duke University researchers raises several important scientific and ethical issues regarding multinational clinical research. ACRO appreciates several of the article’s recommendations. For instance, the authors state “Industry sponsors, contract research organizations, and the academic community can meet the challenges of globalization by accepting full responsibility for the ethical conduct and quality oversight of these trials.” ACRO members have been leaders in driving global standards for patient protection and safety and ACRO looks forward to engaging sponsors and academic institutions in a discussion to establish parameters in this regard.
Further, the article states “Investigators in developing countries would benefit from rigorous training in the design, conduct, and ethical oversight of trials, which would allow them to engage more fully in multinational clinical research at a leadership level.” ACRO members invest millions of dollars annually to recruit and train high-quality investigators in more than 60 countries. A well-trained, global investigator network is in the best interest of all participants in the drug development process.
However, the globalization of the clinical trials enterprise is a complex endeavor involving many factors. Unfortunately, the authors’ ignored one of the primary drivers behind the globalization of clinical research: the limited participation rate in clinical trials in the United States and Western Europe. According to the non-profit Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation, 80% of clinical trials in the United States are delayed at least one month because of unfulfilled enrolment. The ramifications of this limited participation are clear. According to the National Cancer Institute, fewer than 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials; but if the participation rate doubled to just 10%, studies could be completed in one year, rather than the typical three-to-five years. ACRO and its members work extensively to increase clinical trial participation in the U.S. and Western Europe, yet multinational studies are not only necessary but also desirable in order to meet the demands of today’s global pharmaceutical industry.
The article cites “the increasingly bureaucratic and expensive regulatory environment in many wealthy countries” as another force that is moving clinical trials to developing countries. Again, ACRO looks forward to working with sponsors, academic researchers and other participants in the drug development process to improve the environment for clinical research while maintaining an emphasis on participant safety. Among other collaborations, ACRO is an active participant in the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), a joint project of the Food & Drug Administration and Duke University.
The Association of Clinical Research Organizations (ACRO) is the professional organization of companies whose focus is clinical research. The association provides an active voice for the CRO industry, which provides specialized services that are integral to the development of drugs, biologics and medical devices. ACRO helps its members improve the quality, efficiency and safety of biomedical research. ACRO member companies employ more than 70,000 professionals worldwide. For more information, please visit www.acrohealth.org