NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 25, 2005

Western drugmakers are shifting more clinical trials to emerging markets in a bid to save money, speed research and educate a new generation of local doctors about their products.

Just how far the trend has gone was highlighted recently when Sanofi-Aventis SA, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and AstraZeneca Plc announced results from a 46,000-patient trial of two drugs in China:

  • The study on blood thinner Plavix and beta blocker Toprol XL, presented at the American College of Cardiology in Orlando, was the largest ever undertaken in China and the second biggest heart attack study anywhere in the world.
  • Yet it cost just $3 million; if it were done in the United States it would have cost at least 10 to 20 times more.
  • Companies typically pay doctors or hospitals for each patient studied, so it makes sense to shift big trials to countries where costs are lower.

Cost, however, is not the only factor:

  • At a time when patient recruitment has become more difficult in the United States, western Europe and Japan, other parts of the world can offer better and faster access to patients.
  • It is often a lot quicker to find enough patients to take part in a clinical trial in an emerging market because rival drugmakers are not competing so fiercely for subjects.
  • Furthermore, patients in such countries are less likely to be taking other medicines which could interact with the drug being studied; such "treatment-naive" subjects are increasingly hard to come by in wealthy nations.

Source: Reuters, "Drug trials exported to emerging markets; Move saves money, speeds trials, educates local doctors,", March 9, 2005.


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