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Clinical trials market worth $50bn in 2008

Published on 14/07/09 at 08:10am

The global clinical trials market topped $50 billion last year and, despite the recent downturn in the fortunes of most contract research organisations, is on a course for buoyant growth for the next decade.

That is the conclusion of a newly-published report from Visiongain, which says the contract research market is set to grow at a rate of around 11% a year between 2006 and 2018.

"Pharmaceutical companies [currently] spend approximately 30% of their total R&D budget on outsourcing," says the report, adding: "Outsourcing continues to rise with a growth rate ranging from 10 to 20%."

That optimistic appraisal comes at a time when most contract research organisations (CROs) have seen demand for their services reined back. Since the latter half of 2008, as the economic downturn hit the industry, pharmaceutical manufacturers have been conserving resources and carefully selecting which new compounds to place into clinical development.

"CROs find themselves functioning in a progressively more competitive environment to get their share of the sponsors' research and development funds," according to Visiongain.

Despite the, hopefully short-term, pain associated with the downturn, the stimuli for growth in the CRO sector remain sound.

The market is being driven by a desire to reduce costs in drug development, but also an increased interest by pharmaceutical manufacturers in demonstrating cost-effectiveness. This is an increasingly important consideration as health systems around the world start to rely on health technology assessment (HTA) agencies such as the UK's National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Another factor is a desire by drugmakers to increase productivity to maintain historically high levels of new products reaching the market, according to Visiongain.

As a result there has been a rapid expansion of outsourced clinical services in both the West and in developing nations, most notably India and China.

The trend towards outsourcing clinical trials to these and other emerging countries is a result not only of cost-cutting, but also an appreciation of their potential as emerging pharmaceutical markets.

For example, China is currently ranked as the 9th largest single country in terms of pharmaceutical sales and is predicted to rise to 8th position within the next few years.

Among other trends to note in clinical trials, Visiongain also points to the rising adoption of electronic data capture (EDC) in the pharmaceutical sector and the increasing use of biomarkers as surrogates for clinical endpoints in studies.

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