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Clinical trials need national co-operation and more resources

The number of clinical trials has declined drastically. This is due, among other things, to the scarce resources of university hospitals and lack of national co-operation structures, says a study commissioned by the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS) and partly funded by Sitra.


Kirsi Suomalainen

Specialist, Communications and Public Affairs


“In 2022, only 107 new clinical trials were registered in Finland, compared to 285 in the best years. About 3,500 drug trials are registered in the EU area annually. For example, Sweden and Denmark have twice as many as in Finland,” says Development Manager Pirkko Lepola from HUS.

“Trials are also the only opportunity to develop new treatments for diseases for which there is still no treatment and, for example, for children for whom there are only a limited number of safe drugs.”

The study commissioned by HUS showed that doctors do not always find time for clinical research alongside their main job, but most of them conduct research alongside other work. Doctors also want more support in organising their work. Full-time research nurses feel that their training and pay are inadequate. But both professions are interested in performing more clinical drug trials and feel that research improves the quality of care.

Research work is slowed down by such things as bureaucracy, inoperative information systems, lack of support services and time spent on research preparation, including training and patient recruitment, which is not counted as research time. National co-operation structures have not yet been established in Finland, unlike in Denmark. From a pharmaceutical industry perspective, Finland has a low patient volume and too few academically distinguished researchers.

Solving the clinical trial crisis requires changes in the organisation of doctors’ work, research processes as well as national co-operation structure development between university hospitals and wellbeing services counties.

“The decline in clinical trials is a phenomenon that covers the entire country, in other words, it is not limited to HUS alone. We need to rapidly develop a common national model for co-operation and assess how to improve the incentives for researchers. The nationally agreed RDI funding plan must be used as a basis for action,” says Petri Lehto, Senior Lead at Sitra.

HUS commissioned the consultancy survey on the conditions, bottlenecks and willingness to conduct clinical trials at HUS and in its wellbeing services counties, as well as at Turku University Hospital and in the Southwest Finland Wellbeing Services County. The project was carried out as part of Sitra’s Health Data 2030 project to build solutions and fair rules for the cross-border use of health data in Europe and support the competitiveness of the sector in Finland.

Read more from the HUS Group’s press release (8 May 2023) and the study (both in Finnish).

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