18 November 2004 | Cara Whitehouse
The NHS is in danger of pricing itself out of the clinical trials market, according to a leading industry body.
Richard Ley, spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said there was a growing trend to move trials to cheaper countries.
"Companies are looking to eastern Europe for clinical trials, where the science is excellent and costs are much lower," he said.
Fees charged by the doctors and NHS institutions reportedly make the UK one of the most expensive countries to run trials.
The cost of bringing a drug to market averages £550 million, according to Ley.
The NHS could lose tens of millions of pounds if trials go abroad, said Dr Michael Bowden, executive board member of the Contract Clinical Research Association (CCRA).
He believed the main driver for offshoring was speed, because trials in "non-traditional" countries could be completed faster than in the UK, where there was "too much process".
His comments come as pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmith-Kline announced plans to move 30 per cent of its clinical trials to countries such as India and Poland within two years.
Reports have suggested the cost of trials in India, with access to huge patient populations, could be as little as a tenth of running them in the west.