Reviewing the clinical trial applications received by the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). According to the MHRA’s figures, the number of applications for clinical trials in the UK has declined since 2005, at their lowest in 2010.
Recent years show a recovery in application numbers, but 2016 shows that these are dynamic figures. A decline in the number of trials may reflect underlying changes in clinical design or research targets; the drop in applications were more marked for non-commercial trials and this may reflect a change in public research funds available.
The UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) statistics show that nearly 35,000 participants were recruited to ongoing and 729 new commercial contract studies taking place through the Network in 2016-17. It is important to note that the MHRA figures are for applications whereas the NIHR data includes ongoing trials as well as new trials.
A number of factors also contribute to the differences between the MHRA data and the NIHR statistics. Firstly, not all applications would have been successful – either being totally unsuccessful or requiring further amendments with subsequent delay and secondly, not all commercial research is necessarily conducted via the NIHR clinical research network. However, the conclusion that can be drawn is that both MHRA and the NIHR analysis indicate a continued competitive performance for clinical research in the UK.