Starting NHS clinical trials in 70 days ‘may take a little time’

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Health Minister Earl Howe (resized) The NHS target of starting all clinical drug trials within 70 days of approval will “take a little time” to become the norm, according to Health Minister Earl Howe.

The new target, which became effective in April 2012, is being achieved incrementally as older contracts expire, he said.

In addition, the Health Research Authority (HRA) is looking at ways to combine the NHS study-wide review and the research ethics committee review for a drug in a single assessment.

When speaking to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee as part of its inquiry into clinical trials, Earl Howe was asked about the compliance of hospital trusts with the 70-day benchmark.

He said: “If I were candid, I would say that it may take a little time before we see majority compliance with it, partly because some trusts are working on older type contracts and have not signed up to this yet.

“When contracts are renewed over the coming years they will include the new benchmark as a stipulation, but inevitably I think it will be a gradual process of implementation.”

A common reason for delay is that researchers have to seek permission from each trust involved in a research project.

Earl Howe commented: “The HRA is looking at ways to speed up the whole research journey and is running a feasibility study to test the effect of rationalising and combining NHS study-wide review with elements of the research ethics committee review into a single HRA assessment.”

He noted that the number of patients participating in NHS clinical trials had reached 630,000, an increase of 7% on the previous year.