Health Care

New Report Documents Economic And Health Care Impact Of Clinical Trials

By Jenny Callison, posted May 1, 2014
The Cape Fear business community knows that the pharmaceutical industry – specifically contract research organizations and the companies affiliated with them – are an important part of the region’s economic engine. A new report confirms the extent of that industry’s impact.

The report, Research in Your Backyard:  Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Southeastern North Carolina, was released at PPD headquarters earlier this week.

The report, prepared by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), shows that U.S. biopharmaceutical research companies have conducted nearly 500 clinical trials of new medicines in partnership with companies in southeastern North Carolina since 1999. The region’s largest CRO, it stated, is PPD, with more than 13,000 employees globally and offices in 46 countries.

Research in Your Backyard further stated that 203 of the region’s clinical trials have targeted six of the most debilitating chronic diseases: asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and stroke, with 25 of these chronic disease medicine trials still active and recruiting patients.  

Most of those clinical trials have taken place in Wilmington, the report stated; others have been conducted in Calabash (Brunswick), Fayetteville and Hope Mills (Cumberland) and Whiteville (Columbus).

In 2011, biopharmaceutical activity in North Carolina supported more than 226,000 jobs and generated $50.3 billion in economic activity in the state, according to the report.  Citing the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the report stated that there are 3,950 life sciences jobs in southeastern North Carolina, up more than 24 percent since 2006.

At the time PhRMA’s report was completed in April, 25 clinical trials – out of the total of 203 that have taken place in southeastern North Carolina – were still recruiting participants.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Connie Majure-Rhett said she was not surprised by the reported economic impact of clinical research-related activity in the area.

“We know the strength of CROs, but I think [the findings] surprised people from outside the Wilmington area,” she said. “It was great to see how important the biopharmaceutical industry is to us, and putting numbers on it is good for the community to know.”

Majure-Rhett said that the report’s conclusions support the findings and recommendations of the Garner Report commissioned by New Hanover County and released to the public in early April.

“The Garner Report stated that our area is well positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the life sciences, and that the life and marine science industries are optimal targets for our economic development efforts,” she said.
“It is great to see a national organization [PhRMA] pointing out the success of our work,” said Randall Johnson, director of the southeastern office of the N.C. Biotechnology Center. “The report adds credibility and validity to what my office has been saying for a couple of years.”

Johnson noted that biopharmaceutical endeavors are just one segment of the biotech industry that is developing in North Carolina. Other segments, he said, are industrial biotech, marine biotech and agricultural biotech, all of which are important to the Wilmington area and beyond.

To read the entire report, click here.
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