A new website aimed at encouraging and facilitating patient recruitment to clinical trials in Australia has been launched by the federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, and the Minister for Innovation and Industry, Greg Combet.

The initiative was welcomed by Medicines Australia, the national association for research-based pharmaceutical companies, which noted that improving patient recruitment was a key component of last year’s recommendations by the Clinical Trials Action Group (CTAG), a panel set up to look at ways of arresting the decline in clinical trial activity in Australia.

According to Plibersek, the Australian Clinical Trials website was developed in response to the needs of consumer groups, the pharmaceutical industry and research institutions.

“There are many stories about recovery, improved quality of life or longer life from participating in a clinical trial conducted in Australia, and this website will make it easier for patients to find out about and access clinical trials,” she commented.

Range of information

The website offers a range of information on how and why clinical trials are conducted, the benefits of participation, and how patients can get involved. There are tailored sections for consumers, healthcare providers, researchers and industry/sponsors, as well as testimonies from these four constituencies.

There is also a link to a “Find a clinical trial” website, with details of trial registries (e.g., the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ClinicalTrials.gov), clinical trial organisations, research networks, co-ordinating hubs and support groups.

The National Health and Medical Research Council built the Australian Clinical Trials website, while the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education provided funding of A$40,000 to support the website’s development.

Easier access

Combet said the government was making it easier for patients to access information about medical research, which would lead to higher participation rates for clinical trials and increased investment in new medical innovations.

Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw described the initiative as “a great first step, because addressing the challenges in patient recruitment is one way to help grow the number of clinical trials in Australia and reverse the decline we’ve seen over the past few years”.

Last November the industry association kept up the pressure on government to implement the CTAG’s recommendations by launched a paper on Keeping clinical trials in Australia: why action is needed.

The paper showed that the number of new clinical trials in Australia had been declining over the previous three years by an average of 13 per cent per annum.

Stiff competition

“Australia is facing increasingly stiff competition globally for clinical trial investment and too often we’re missing out on that investment to countries in eastern Europe and Asia,” noted Shaw, as he welcomed the launch of the Australian Clinical Trials website.

“We need to implement the other recommendations of the Clinical Trials Action Group as soon as possible.”