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Trials. 2012 Apr 29;13:53. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-13-53.

Impact assessment of the European Clinical Trials Directive: a longitudinal, prospective, observational study analyzing patterns and trends in clinical drug trial applications submitted since 2001 to regulatory agencies in six EU countries.

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European Consulting & Contracting in Oncology, St, Annastrasse 3, D-54295 Trier, Germany.



Shifts in clinical trial application rates over time indicate if the attractiveness of a country or region for the conduct of clinical trials is growing or decreasing. The purpose of this observational study was to track changes in drug trial application patterns across several EU countries in order to analyze the medium-term impact of the EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC on the conduct of drug trials.


Rates of Clinical Trial Applications (CTA) for studies with medicinal products in those six countries in the EU, which authorize on average more than 500 trials per year, were analyzed. Publicly available figures on the number of annually submitted CTA, the distribution of trials per phase and the type of sponsorship were tracked; missing data were provided by national drug agencies.


Since 2001, the number of CTA in Italy and Spain increased significantly (5.0 and 2.5% average annual growth). For Italy, the gain was driven by a strong increase of applications from academic trial sponsors; Spain's growth was due to a rise in trials run by commercial sponsors. The Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK saw a decline (1.9, 2.3, 3.0 and 5.3% average annual diminution; significant (P < 0.05) except for Germany) in clinical drug trials. The decrease in the UK was caused by a sharp fall in academic trial activities. Across the six analyzed countries, no EU-wide trial-phase-specific patterns or trends were observed.


The EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC did not achieve the harmonization of clinical trial requirements across Europe. Rather, it resulted in the leveling of clinical trial activities caused by a continuing decrease in CTA rates in the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. Southern European countries, Italy and Spain, benefited to some extent from policy changes introduced by the Directive. In Italy's case, national funding measures helped to considerably promote the conduct of non-commercial trials. On the other hand, the EU Directive-driven transition from liberal policy environments, based on non-explicit trial approval through notifications, towards red-taped processes of trial authorization, contributed to the decreases in trial numbers in Germany and the UK. In the latter case, national research governance concerns had a share in the country's marked decline. However, different EU member states successfully developed best practices, which a new European legislation should take into consideration to resume Europe's attractiveness and international competitiveness for the conduct of clinical trials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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