University of Philippines Manila

Experts discuss how PH can be center of excellence in clinical trials

In a groundbreaking effort to fortify the landscape of clinical trials in the country, the UP Manila National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Clinical Trials and Translational Center held an expert panel discussion entitled “Philippines as a Center of Excellence in Clinical Trials: Let’s Make It Happen” on Oct. 6, 2023, at the UP Bonifacio Global City.

In partnership with the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association, Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, Bureau of Investments, and Philippine Clinical Research Professionals, the forum gathered researchers and scientists from the academe, hospitals, and other health institutions. It featured a panel of distinguished speakers who contributed their expertise to the pursuit of clinical trials (CT) excellence in the Philippines.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Eva Cutiongco-Dela Paz, NIH executive director, emphasized the crucial role of clinical trials in shaping the nation’s healthcare future.

Dr. Mercedes Dela Vina, Adult Medicine expert from Healthserve Los Banos Medical Center, emphasized the dual objectives of CTs in evaluating the effectiveness of various interventions and ensuring safety. Clinical trials, she explained, are the rigorous testing grounds for new treatments before they are made available to the public.

Representing the DOH, Dr. Johanna Mallari-Abella highlighted the need for a multi-sectoral approach and collaboration among various agencies to achieve the goal of becoming a Center of Excellence in CT. She stressed the importance of reviewing regulatory processes, adjusting policies, and creating a supportive environment for clinical trials.

Dr. Jaime Montoya, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director, discussed the significance of clinical trials in healthcare and recommended measures for their enhancement. These include improving and increasing funding collaboration, strengthening patient commitment and promotion, improving patient retention and compliance, adopting more flexible study designs, having strategies to speed up implementation of CTs at lower cost; and improving data management.

Conforming with the collaboration pathway, Ms. Zohra Jane Esperal, representing IQVIA, discussed the economic impact of clinical research and emphasized the Philippines’ potential as a preferred destination for CTs. She issued a call for action in three major areas: streamlined regulations to ease CT conduct, develop PH as a CT Strategic Center, and investment for sustainable growth.

British Ambassador to the Philippines, Laure Beaufils, expressed the United Kingdom’s support for the Philippines’ commitment to clinical trials and highlighted its benefits to the healthcare sector.

Dr. Iris Tagaro, Food and Drug Administration regulator, stressed the importance of stakeholder involvement in improving the clinical trial regulatory system. Meanwhile, Dr. Diana Edralin, representing the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Association of the Philippines, shared their aspiration to establish the Philippines as a global hub for clinical trials and discussed lessons learned from the pandemic.

Dr. Nancy Bermal from Unilab Philippines, discussed the local drug company’s contribution to the nation’s goal of becoming a center of excellence for clinical trials.

Representing the Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Dr. Corazon Ngelangel highlighted the pivotal role of “Centers of Excellence in Healthcare” as a prelude to being a Center of Excellence in Clinical Trials. She underscored that once a hospital establishes robust training programs and nurtures a research-oriented culture, it lays the foundation for the seamless integration of clinical trials, marking a significant milestone in advancing healthcare.

On the other hand, Ms. Marimel Lamsin from the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations, emphasized key strategies for enhancing the quality of healthcare in the country. She underscored the importance of respecting patients’ rights, advocating for universal healthcare, and actively involving patients in the policymaking process.
The event concluded with Mr. Reynaldo Lignes, Acting Director, Manufacturing Industry Services, Board of Investments, DTI, providing a synthesis of the discussions and outlining the next steps for clinical trials in the Philippines. NCTTC Director Benjamin Sablan, Jr., in his closing remarks, expressed optimism about the future of clinical trials in the country. (Charmaine Lingdas and Cynthia M. Villamor)

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