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New report shows a severe decline in Swedish clinical drug trials

Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd

Research!Sweden’s annual report shows that the number of initiated drug evaluations in Sweden has halved between 2004 and 2016.

This decline could lead to less patients being able to take advantage of new effective pharmaceuticals. It is alarming, states the report, not least due to the fact that in only 23 years the number of people being 80 years old or older will be twice as many as today and the healthcare costs are continuing to increase.

“In order to both improve our health and limit the costs, an increased focus on preventing diseases is needed. At the same time we must strengthen our research and the use of new methods to improve treatment results,” says Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd, secretary general at Research!Sweden.

A very bad sign

The report shows that the total investment in research and development (R&D) in Sweden has decreased from 3.9 % of the BNP in 2001 to 3.26 % of the BNP in 2016. The reason for the decline is that the company’s investments in R&D, presented as part of the BNP, decreased 25 % during the same period. This could for example be compared to Denmark, which has had an 19 % increase.

“In order to manage the challenges within the healthcare sector and be competitive within research and industry, we need better conditions for both academic and industrial research. The fact that companies to a larger extent choses to perform their drug trials in other countries is a very bad sign,” says Nilsson Vindefjärd.

Does not reflect the total amount

However, in a comment to Läkartidningen noted representatives from Clinical Studies Sweden (a collaboration between the Swedish Research Council and the country’s healthcare regions) that this statistics is built upon drug trials which has started under the aegis of member companies of the Research-based pharmaceutical industry (LIF), and hence does not reflect the total amount of initiated drug trials during this period.

Financing and structural changes

This decline in drug trials has also been noted by the Minister for Higher Education and Research i Sweden, Helene Hellmark Knutsson. In a Swedish radio interview (Ekot) on May 3oth, she said that the government needs to do more in order to increase the number of clinical trials within medical research in Sweden.

“Prior to this year’s election in Sweden we are very attentive of which political party that puts efforts in strengthening financing of medical research as well as making structural changes. This is needed in order to limit the increasing healthcare costs and increase our citizen’s health and the well-being of our country,” says Nilsson Vindefjärd.

  • A drug evaluation or drug trial means that the drug’s effect and safety is tested on humans. It is part of the concept clinical studies – scientific studies performed on humans to study biomedical or health-related issues.Photo: Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd: Research!Sweden