Clinical trials are one of the most significant contributions made by Canada’s research-based pharmaceutical industry made to Canada’s research capability.
At any given time, there are more than 3,000 clinical trials under way, worth an investment in excess of $1.8-billion that is building expertise among healthcare professionals and providing access to new and experimental treatments for patients along the way.
“What we are aiming for is evaluate better treatments for patients,” says Belinda Vandersluis, director of implementation at the Canadian Clinical Trials Coordinating Centre (CCTCC), a joint effort of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research through its Strategy for Patient Oriented Research, Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies and HealthCareCAN. “But clinical trials are also a really important component of a physician’s practice. Having access to new medicines and treatments ensures we have strong research programs in our hospitals and universities.”
Between 2005 and 2010, the global trend for investing in clinical trials changed. More investment went to the Developing World — Eastern bloc Europe, South America, China and India — which caused countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, the European Union and even Canada to re-evaluate its efficiencies in conducting clinical trials.
In Canada, addressing this challenge brought together 150 stakeholders from academia, government and the pharmaceutical industry to identify possible solutions. The result was the creation of the CCTCC a year ago and a nine-point action plan for it to implement.
“It’s a complex environment with many stakeholders — patients, academics, independent research sites, industry, government,” says Vandersluis. “We have to make sure the system we have is efficient while maintaining the highest quality. We have the quality piece as Canada is well known for the expertise of its researchers and strength of its research facilities. Our stumbling blocks are speed and cost.
“We are ultimately trying to streamline the clinical trial start-up process in Canada to make sure everyone is working towards making Canada a preferred country for conducting clinical trials. We need to address the operational and strategic challenges that have been identified so that we can make real progress towards this goal.”
One of the tools being developed to help Canada attract more clinical trials is an asset map to accurately illustrate Canada’s research capabilities. The Canadian Clinical Trials Asset Map (CCTAM) is the first pan-Canadian research inventory of Canadian investigators, clinical research sites, hospitals, institutions, research ethics boards and other clinical research resources available across the country. The CCTAM is a free tool that launched June 4 at www.cctam.ca; it will also be regularly updated.
“It’s a very dynamic field,” says Elena Aminkova, project manager of the Canadian Clinical Trial Asset Map (CCTAM). “This asset map will put Canada in a strong position while competing to attract clinical trials. It will prove invaluable for companies looking at Canada as the possible site of a trial and will be a great resource for helping doctors stay at the forefront of innovation and medical technology, enabling them to provide better care for their patients.”
The CCTAM will enable clinical trial sponsors to effectively and efficiently identify investigators, clinical research sites and hospitals where they may conduct their trials. This creates the opportunity to participate in more trials, to engage in investigator-initiated research, to better market themselves and, above all, to provide better care for their patients.
“If there are more clinical trials in Canada, better treatments and medications will come to this country faster,” says Aminkova. “Patients in clinical trials get more time with their physicians, the latest innovative treatments and more personalized care.