Large vaccine trials continued to dominate the Finnish landscape last year, with 66% of the 48,000 or so patients and healthy volunteers who took part in clinical studies during 2007 opting for vaccine trials.

Post-marketing studies were also a strong draw last year, with 37% of all subjects participating in Phase IV trials. Moreover, 79% of these participants were involved in vaccine trials, notes the national trade association Pharma Industry Finland (PIF).

With nearly 100% vaccine coverage and a number of specialist centres, such as the National Public Health Institute and the Tampere University vaccine research centre, Finland is “an excellent location for vaccine trials”, the association says. The requisite infrastructure “is outstanding, since the national maternity and child clinics [and] school healthcare as well as the population register system enables recruitment of large numbers of participants rapidly, and the follow-up is also easy to organise”.

Over the past six years there have been seven to 19 vaccine trials ongoing in Finland each year, recruiting more than 35,000 participants. These include children, who have taken part in extensive studies focused on, for example, rotavirus, varicella, influenza and human papillomavirus vaccines, Pharma Industry Finland points out.

In all, there were 459 clinical trials ongoing in Finland last year, a sharp decline from the exceptionally high volume of more than 500 trials seen in 2006. The number of trials initiated during 2007 – 175 – “remains in the average range”, the association comments.

The leading therapeutic category for drugs under development in Finland was the central nervous system (CNS), with these products accounting for 25% or 459 of all trials. They were closely followed by antineoplastics and immunomodulators, which accounted for 104 trials.

In terms of trial subjects, 31,840 took part in vaccine trials, 3,513 in studies involving cardiovascular diseases, 2,851 in gastro-intestinal and metabolism trials, 2,719 in cancer and immune response trials, and 2,109 in CNS trials. Around 50% of the trial subjects last year were taking part in Phase III trials.

According to statistics from the National Agency for Medicines, the preliminary estimate for the number of clinical trial notifications in 2007 was around 250, with some 200 of these classified as commercial trials.

The disparity between the commercial trial figure and Pharma Industry Finland’s statistics is due to some of trials sponsored by international parent companies not being reported by the PIF member company based in Finland, the association explains. Moreover, some are commissioned by non-PIF companies and others by foundations or similar bodies.