More than 600,000 people each year could find themselves unable to access what could be life-saving clinical trials in the wake of Brexit, according to warnings from medical research organisations.

How Brexit is affecting essential clinical trials

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New regulations will make it easier for firms to test new treatments within EU countries, leading to fears that Britain will be ‘bypassed’ once it exits the union.

Thousands of people take part in voluntary and paid clinical trials each year. These can offer huge benefits to people with a range of conditions, including rare diseases, diabetes and cancer, as they can gain access to drugs before they are available through the NHS.

Regulations warning

Beth Thompson, senior policy adviser at the research-funding Wellcome Trust, warned that the new regulations will make it more complicated to run clinical trials in Britain, with companies potentially choosing to ‘bypass’ the country in favour of Europe with its larger population. Ironically, Britain helped to come up with the new regulations aimed at streamlining applications for clinical trials.

Lagging behind?

In addition to having a potential impact on patients and on volunteers who access clinical trials through companies such as http://www.trials4us.co.uk/, there are fears that newly-licenced medicines will have their British introductions delayed due to Brexit. Drugs designed for cancer patients are said to be in line for particularly negative effects. This could have a major impact on patients, who can see these trials as a last resort in dealing with serious health issues.

It is expected that the UK will make a departure from the European Medicines Agency in the wake of Brexit. Such a move has sparked fears that the country could find itself behind the EU, the US and Japan when it comes to the introduction of new drugs.

Security needed

Alistair Kent, director of Genetic Alliance UK, said uncertainty about the effects of Brexit on clinical trials and the drugs industry could have a negative impact on current research. He has called for the government to offer clarity to companies that could choose to avoid the UK in favour of a more secure climate.

The Institute of Cancer Research’s chief executive and president, Paul Workman, added that any regulations with the potential to prevent collaborative work with EU colleagues would limit the clinical trial opportunities on offer in Britain.