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23 Oct 2023
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The UK Regulatory Competitiveness in an ever changing world

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Clinical research success during the COVID-19 pandemic

The United Kingdom, with its rich history of clinical trials, has long been a preferred destination for conducting cutting-edge research. One of the key factors contributing to its attractiveness is the favourable regulatory environment, particularly when it comes to early development trials. Over the years, the UK has established itself as a frontrunner in clinical research, boasting a remarkable track record of achievements. Notably, it has played a pivotal role in recent successes, such as the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutic trials.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the UK's prowess in clinical research, showcasing a dynamic collaboration between various stakeholders. This included the government, academic institutions, industry leaders, the National Health Service (NHS), and the public, all united in a shared mission to expedite the development of treatments for an urgent global health crisis.

Changes to Clinical Trials regulations

To reinforce its position as a global leader in clinical research, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK's competent authority, unveiled a comprehensive plan earlier this year. This plan outlines significant changes to clinical trial regulations in the UK, with a primary focus on expediting key stages of the process.

Key changes proposed by the MHRA include:

  1. Incorporating the MHRA/research ethics committee combined review into legislation: This step is set to establish competitive timelines for the review of trial applications, streamlining the process and reducing delays.
  2. Streamlining reporting requirements and eliminating duplications: This initiative aims to enhance participant safety while minimizing administrative burden, making the UK even more attractive for clinical trials.
  3. Introducing a 'notification scheme' for low-risk trials: Trials with risks akin to standard medical care will receive quicker approvals, eliminating the need for extensive regulatory review while ensuring that they are conducted in a risk-proportionate manner.
  4. Reforming Request for Information (RFI) receipt: Sponsors will now have access to RFIs as they are ready, adopting a 'rolling review' approach, reducing waiting times and enhancing efficiency.
  5. Enhancing risk proportionality in the trials process: The integration of risk proportionality into Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and other aspects of the trials process ensures that regulations align with the actual risk involved.
  6. Streamlining and enhancing approval procedures: The MHRA seeks to make the process more efficient and competitive while maintaining international standards for trial conduct. This, in turn, will bolster the UK's position as a preferred site for multinational trials.

Notably, the MHRA has set ambitious timelines, with a goal of completing application reviews within a maximum of 30 days and making a final decision within a maximum of 10 calendar days after receiving responses to queries. These timelines stand in sharp contrast to the often lengthy processes in continental Europe under the EU Clinical Trial Regulation 536/2014, making the UK an ideal destination for early development trials, including Human Challenge Trials.

Elevating global clinical research leadership

In conclusion, the UK's commitment to enhancing its clinical trial landscape through regulatory reform not only reinforces its historical standing but also positions it as a global leader in clinical research. The streamlined and efficient regulatory framework, coupled with competitive timelines, makes the United Kingdom a top choice for researchers and organizations looking to conduct groundbreaking clinical trials.

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