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Patients losing out amid slump in NHS clinical trials, warn top clinicians

The state of clinical trials in the NHS is “much worse than it has been in years” with patients losing access to cutting-edge cancer and dementia treatments, one of the UK’s most senior clinicians has warned.

Sir John Bell, the regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and a government life sciences adviser, said the UK’s approach needed “a full overhaul, top to bottom” to prevent a collapse in the number of clinical trials being conducted in the NHS.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that companies are choosing not to evaluate their drugs in the UK,” he said. “The risks [to patients] are much bigger than have been alluded to.”

The intervention comes after the government launched an independent review led by the former health minister James O’Shaughnessy into why the NHS had seen a 44% drop in participants recruited to commercial clinical trials in the past five years. The UK is rapidly losing ground to countries such as Spain, Poland and Australia, falling from fourth to 10th internationally for phase III trials.

Reduced access to trials is particularly concerning for patients with limited routine treatment options, such as the roughly 3.5 million people living with rare diseases and patients with dementia and advanced cancer.

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Source: The Guardian, 27 February 2023


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