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Record numbers take part in life sciences industry research

Published: 18 July 2018

More people than ever before took part in NHS clinical research studies sponsored by the life sciences industry over the last year - gaining earlier access to potentially cutting edge new treatments while helping to answer important health questions - according to new figures from the NIHR.

NIHR publishes its annual research statistics each year, covering commercial studies sponsored by the life sciences industry - such as pharmaceutical companies - as well as non-commercial studies funded by organisations such as medical charities, research councils, the government or NIHR.

This year’s figures, which cover the twelve month period between April 2017 and March 2018, suggest that health research is thriving across the country and the NHS continues to be seen as a good place to deliver high quality clinical trials.

The number of people participating in NIHR supported life sciences industry studies rose by 45 percent in the 2017/18 financial year - with NIHR helping to recruit 50,112 participants into commercial research studies within the NHS, primary care and other health settings across England.

Dr Jonathan Sheffield OBE, Chief Executive Officer of the NIHR Clinical Research Network (CRN) said: “By taking part in life sciences industry studies, patients are participating in new and innovative forms of treatment which will provide evidence for future improved care for all patients. The knowledge gained could provide the evidence to license new treatments in the NHS securing healthy lives for future generations.

“Partnerships between the NHS and the life sciences industry bring a range of benefits to the healthcare sector - giving trusts access to new treatments and funding for health research, while also boosting the wider economy each year through the development of cutting edge medical innovations.”

Nicola Whitehill, 45, has taken part in three pharmaceutically-led clinical studies since being diagnosed with a rare, chronic disease - Raynaud's and Scleroderma.

Nicola, who was initially told she had 15 months to live in 1997 due to the aggressive nature of the disease said: “Before I started taking part in clinical trials, having been told the disease I had was likely to kill me and had no cure - my situation was like a dark tunnel without any light at the end.

“Taking part in trials provided a glimmer of hope, giving me access to new treatments which potentially could improve my condition. I’d recommend taking part in a clinical trial to any patient if they have the opportunity.”

Overall participant numbers near three quarters of a million

In total, more than 725,000 participants across the country signed up for clinical research studies supported by the NIHR in 2017/18 - including studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and those funded by NIHR, charities or other non-commercial organisations which are delivered in the NHS. This is the highest number since records began in England and a significant increase of nearly 10 percent from the previous year. Over the last five years, more than 3.2 million participants have taken part in studies supported by NIHR.

Record number of new studies

The number of new health research studies being set up during the year was also at its highest level yet, with the NIHR CRN pledging its support to 2,070 new studies over the course of 2017/18.

Jonathan Sheffield, OBE said: “Health research is the key to finding new and innovative cures, treatments and care for patients. Evidence also shows research active organisations consistently deliver better outcomes to all patients they treat, not just those involved in health research trials.
“We aim to ensure research is embedded in all aspects of care delivered in England.  We also wish to provide an opportunity for anyone to be involved in a health research study.  With nearly three quarters of a million participants in the last year we are moving closer to achieving this.”

Irene Soulsby, 60, decided to take part in a health trial after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Since then she has taken part in many other studies as a healthy participant so she could give something back to the NHS. 

Irene said: “Clinical research is vital to the NHS to help make improvements to patient care. I am excited to be involved in research that makes a contribution to the advancement of medical and scientific knowledge, even in a small way. Research helps everyone understand more about growing old and what that means, finding more treatments and cures for diseases. Eventually researchers hope to make disease a thing of the past. It’s only with real people’s contributions that research can move forward.”

NIHR Research Activity League Table published

Each year, the NIHR Clinical Research Network publishes the NIHR Research Activity League Table. It provides a picture of research activity across all NHS trusts and CCG regions in England. The table data includes how much clinical research is happening, where, in what types of trusts, and involving how many patients.

The 2017/18 league table is now available, accessible to anyone wanting to understand how much research activity is happening in their local trust or CCG region. 

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