Pharma & drug development

Could Africa become a clinical trial powerhouse?

With its broad and diverse population, Africa can provide many of the conditions ideal for carrying out clinical research, but despite the clinical advantages, the continent contributes to a tiny proportion of the total number of clinical trials. Abi Millar analyses Africa’s potential to become a hotbed for clinical research and the roadblocks stopping that from happening.

To date, the African continent has not been known as a hotbed of clinical research. Despite playing host to 17.5% of the global population, the continent is dramatically underrepresented in clinical trials – only 2.5% of clinical trials take place here, according to one estimate. Of those trials, the majority occur in South Africa or Egypt, with many countries barely conducting any studies at all.

This has some serious drawbacks, both for the clinical trial sponsors and the African population. From the sponsors’ perspective, they are missing out on the opportunity to conduct comparatively cheap research with a diverse patient population, often enrolling patients who have never experienced any treatment for their disease.

From the perspective of ordinary people, a lack of clinical research could mean a lack of suitable medicines. We know that some diseases are more prevalent in certain ethnic groups, and that genetic makeup can factor greatly in a person’s response to treatment. That means you can’t necessarily extrapolate results from Seattle and assume they will apply in Senegal.

Read the rest of this article in the October 2021 edition of Medical Technology

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