RCSI Bahrain opens clinical trials unit; Kingdom aims to become medical research hub of Gulf

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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RCSI - Bahrain
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The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Bahrain, a not-for-profit healthcare education and research institution, has started a clinical trials unit with the support of a strong ecosystem which includes, RCSI Ireland and Bahrain’s Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA).

The approval for clinical trials in RCSI’s hub in Bahrain may be given in weeks, which can take months in Europe, due to the responsive nature of NHRA to research trials that can then be carried out safely and to rigorous international standards.

RCSI has recently completed two national clinical trials involving COVID patients, the first around the effectiveness of convalescent plasma from recovered patients, and the second a comparative trial of the effectiveness of the drug Favipiravir against hydroxychloroquine. The third trial in Bahrain worth around $1.7 million is currently underway.

Prof. Stephen Atkin
Prof. Stephen Atkin
Head – School of Postgraduate Studies & Research
RCSI Bahrain

“There is a clear and growing opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to set up and trade in the Middle East region. But it’s not just about getting products into the market. You need a solid base to tap into the full potential the region has to offer. We’ve found that it is much easier to access patients in Bahrain, despite its size, and the proactive approach to research by the NHRA is fostering a strong ecosystem that is encouraging more clinical researchers to work in Bahrain.” 

In order to conduct clinical trials, four requirements are needed to be fulfilled which include facilities, access to patients, regulation, and research integrity and Bahrain offers all of those at a fraction of the cost of Europe and the US.

The global market for pharma trials is valued at $1.2 trillion and the market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is valued at around $1.36 billion in 2020 and projected to rise to $1.95 billion by 2025. But only 2.5 percent of that is available in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

While much of the Middle Eastern clinical trials market is dominated by non-member GCC countries, Bahrain has the necessary infrastructure in place to be the research hub of the Gulf, according to RCSI. Companies setting up trials in Bahrain will be able to more easily secure approvals by GCC regulators than those conducting trials in other regions.

While more than 80 percent of pharmaceutical products are imported from outside the region. Bahrain offers healthcare manufacturers an excellent base to access the $20 billion GCC pharmaceutical industry.

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