In a “clear indicator of the growing importance of Latin America to the drug development industry”, US-based contract research organisation (CRO) MDS Pharma Services has opened an office in Sao Paulo, citing a 1,000 per cent increase in the number of clinical trials conducted in Brazil between 1995 and 2000.

The new location joins a network of nearly two dozen other late-stage clinical trial management offices run by MDS Pharma in 21 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.

The CRO already offers clinical trial monitoring services from Latin American offices in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru) and Mexico City (Mexico). Since 2002, the MDS Pharma Services team in Latin America has conducted 32 global studies in focus areas such as oncology, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular conditions, infectious diseases and vaccines.

The Sao Paulo office is “a key component of our global expansion strategy”, said president David Spaight. “It allows MDS Pharma Services to provide clients access to a large, diverse pool of clinical trial participants and abundant healthcare resources, including more than 237,000 qualified physicians and more than 46,000 health institutions.” Thanks to this “excellent” infrastructure, he added, clinical studies in Brazil had an impressive track record of strong enrolment rates and good patient compliance/retention.

According to MDS Pharma, an estimated 645 Phase I-IV clinical trials are currently underway in Brazil. While the incidence of heart disease, arthritis, cancer and infectious diseases in the country is on a par with the US, a larger percentage of the Brazilian population is treatment-naïve, the company pointed out. Moreover, the Southern Hemisphere location enables MDS to offer clients year-round testing of drugs for seasonally induced conditions such as allergies and other respiratory problems.