Friday, 9 April 2010

Two anecdotes is evidence?

I was once at a scientific meeting where someone commented that two anecdotes is evidence – this was said somewhat tongue in cheek but in this case the anecdotes support the evidence!

In January the Academy of Medical Sciences published a report as lead-in to the General Election “Reaping the rewards: a vision for UK medical science”. They are urging the government of whatever political persuasion to make it possible for medical science to become a driver for not only health improvements but also for an economic recovery in the UK. I won’t paraphrase here all the information but suffice to say that the UK has an outstanding record in medical research and drug development but that could be all at risk because of the barriers to research and particularly clinical trials. The publication can be seen here.

What is really shocking is that between 2000 and 2006, the proportion of world clinical trials conducted in the UK fell from 6 per cent to 2 per cent. This not only has implications for research, drug development and patients in the future but for patients who are ill now – and some of them very ill – who cannot benefit from current trials.

The Government has ordered a rapid and independent review to be conducted by the Academy of Medical Sciences to look at this.

For the scientists we support this has longer term but serious implications – what is the point of doing research which will not be moved forward into patient care – and especially not be moved forward into patient care within the UK? There is an interesting summary on the challenges in an article in Bioworld here.

So where does the anecdote come in? Just back from a week visiting the Swiss family in Basel where the pharmaceutical industry is the largest employer in the region drawing talent from all over the world. It is interesting to hear from people in the industry there about the resistance now to doing trials in the UK. Not because we don’t have willing patients; not because we don’t have excellent clinicians and hospitals but because of the cost and the layers of bureaucracy which create delays and add further to the cost.

The result of the review is very important – more important is the action taken – or not!

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