The clinical trials that take place in Africa are unevenly distributed and concentrated in only a few countries. As a result, most medicines are developed through clinical trials conducted outside Africa without considering the implications of their use in African patients or within African health systems. It is a widely accepted principle that medical interventions should be tested on diverse populations. African populations display high genetic variability, resulting in variability in disease prevalence/commonness across different ethnic group. This is further influenced by additional social and environmental factors.
Clinical research capacity exists on the continent, it is not aligned with the disease burden —most of the capacity is in infectious diseases specifically HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis — and is focused on treatment drugs rather vaccines. Clinical studies on vaccines account for 8 percent of studies in the past decade.
Additionally, there is a shortage of professionals with specialist skills for clinical and translational research specifically in pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics and data managers. Capacity for clinical research is also limited for early phase and Phase I research insufficient while there is a larger concentration of phase 2 and 3 trials mostly based on existing compounds or a research hypothesis that originates outside of Africa.
Lengthy approval processes for clinical trials and few incentives for biomedical research such as governmental tax incentives also mean a regulatory environment that is not conducive for clinical trials taking place on the continent.
To address this disproportion, The Clinical Research and Trials Community (CRTC) programme – created by the Science for Africa Foundation, aims to create a sustainable clinical trials ecosystem in Africa.
This is expected to be achieved through our four target objectives for the programme:
- Increasing investments in ethical clinical trials in Africa.
- Fostering trust between researchers, regulators, sponsors, funders and the community
- Strengthening capacity in clinical research
- Creating a sustainable clinical trials ecosystem in Africa.
- Increased collaboration and coordination among industry players: Fostering a more cohesive and effective ecosystem for clinical research in Africa to enable greater success in developing and implementing new treatments
- Improved visibility of clinical trials capacity in Africa: Raising the profile of African institutions and researchers on the global stage to ensure increased funding and collaboration opportunities.
- Greater sustainability of clinical trial capacity in Africa: Identifying and addressing gaps in clinical trial capacity to create a more sustainable and self-sufficient system for conducting clinical trials in the region
- Improved capacity for clinical research: By building the capacity for clinical research in Africa, the region may be better equipped to conduct more clinical trials in the future, which could lead to further advances in healthcare, including improving the regulatory environment for clinical trials
- Increased number clinical trials in Africa: Increasing the number of clinical trials conducted in the region, more people may have access to new and innovative treatments that could improve their health and quality of life.
CRTC will achieve its objectives through:
Ultimately, this should lead to improved health outcomes in Africa as more people may have access to new and innovative treatments that could improve their health and quality of life. Initiatives being implemented under the CRTC programme are: Clinical Trials Network, the Clinical Trials Community Africa Network (CTCAN) and the Cross Pharma Capacity Development Initiative (CPCDI).