Russia is rapidly becoming an increasingly attractive place in which to conduct clinical trials, according to a report on the sector written exclusively for PharmaTimes by Simon Friend, global pharma leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Data from the CenterWatch clinical trials listing service reports that there were 523 new trial starts in Russia in 2004, including 252 international studies, 167 local studies of local or international products and 104 bioequivalence studies. This represents a 118% increase on the total number of trials started five years ago. The number of international studies has risen an even more significant 136% over the same period.

The introduction of Good Clinical Practice (GCP) regulations in 1999 accounts for much of the surge. But, like other transitional countries, Russia has several additional advantages. The patient population is treatment-naive and keen to participate in clinical trials, for example, because this is the only way most people can secure access to new drugs and high standards of medical care. They are also easier to reach than patients in countries where primary care plays a much larger role.

In large cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg (with populations of 8.3 million and 4.6 million respectively), most patients are seen at the big teaching hospitals. But even in less urban areas, healthcare is provided primarily through specialist medical centres.

The Russian government has also taken a number of steps to open its health system to foreign clinical research and reduce the bureaucracy. Also, the cost savings are considerable; the clinical fees element in the overall cost of a trial may be as much as 50% less than it is the West.

This is an extract of a larger article on the Russian pharmaceutical market that will appear in a forthcoming issue of PharmaTimes magazine.