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CROs in collaboration

Nordic Life Science Review has talked to Peter Asplund at ASCRO who gave us some insight into the last months’ activities and current issues among CROs.

ASCRO, the Association of CROs active in Sweden, was established last year, as an initiative to unite Swedish CROs and highlight clinical trials. Nordic Life Science Review talked to the trade organization’s president, Peter Asplund, who gave us some insight into the last months’ activities and current issues among CROs.

ASCRO has been up and running since last spring. How would you sum up the last months’ work?
“It has been a very interesting time for us. We have had a very positive response from the CRO companies. In total we now have around ten smaller and larger sized member companies. During these last months, and in response to what has been expressed by the CRO companies, we have been focusing on four different areas. One is the need for networking within the business. Several CROs have expressed a wish for more contact and collaboration with authorities such as the Medical Products Agency. Many feel the importance of becoming united to have one strong voice.
Another question is the possibility of influence. As a small enterprise it is often difficult to have any actual effect on the larger structures and processes. But as a unified organization there is a greater chance of being heard. Thirdly, we have been working with information and communication, i.e., reaching out to members, other CROs and authorities about our work and our ambitions. Lastly, we have begun developing some common standards such as a guide on the procurement of CRO services, a process where there is a need for some best practice guidance.”

You also organized a network meeting recently. What questions did you discuss?
“We had invited Gunilla Andrew Nilsson, a representative from the Medical Products Agency, who presented the new EU regulations for clinical trials that will be introduced within the coming years. ASCRO has high hopes for improvement with this new reform. But there are of course some questions, for example the principles of one response to an application per country and how this can be synchronized with other national requirements, and of course what influence it will have in keeping Sweden attractive for clinical trials.”

What other trends and issues are currently being discussed among CROs?
“An ongoing and highly prioritized matter is how to ensure that we can continue attracting clinical trials to Sweden. There are practical as well as political issues affecting our ability to place studies within healthcare. How do we best find the right clinics for individual studies? Big parts of Swedish healthcare don’t have the time or resources for clinical trials; they are struggling as it is just to provide healthcare. There is a need for incentive systems and additional resources. The political initiatives are getting stronger but there is still much to be done. Also, from our side it is vital that we as CROs are as flexible as possible in our contact with hospitals and other healthcare institutions. One way for example would be to bring about a level of standardization across procedures and documentation that would be common for all studies. This would simplify and smoothen processes.”

What are ASCRO’s next projects?
“Among other things, we are currently working on charting some key figures and statistics together with LIF, the trade association for the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden, and Swedish Medtech. The idea behind this effort is to support open comparisons across different studies and regions of the country in order to better understand productivity, efficiency and geographic distribution of clinical trials in Sweden. This type of comparison will tell its own story and it will feed into other initiatives involving clinical trials in Sweden. ASCRO is of course also focusing on expanding its scope by increasing the number of members.”