How much do clinical trials cost? The answer is overdue.

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  • Informing policy development and evidence-based decision-making: A lack of information about clinical trial costs hinders the creation of reliable cost estimates and thus allocation of proportionate funds for R&D, especially critical in low-resource settings. Transparency on these costs would therefore help inform decision-making around R&D investments.
  • Promoting innovation, especially from non-traditional actors: The high-end estimates of R&D and clinical trial costs can act as a deterrent to some actors and governments considering conducting clinical trials, especially in low-resource settings. Access to data about how much they actually cost would therefore help incentivise and support the development of these initiatives — in turn, this would increase equity in the biomedical R&D ecosystem.
  • Price negotiation: Sky high prices for medicines, vaccines and diagnostics are often justified by the pharmaceutical industry through claims that it costs them billions in R&D investment to bring them to market, and the subsequent “need” to “recoup” these costs. There is however clear evidence this is may not be the case, with research demonstrating that there is in fact little link between R&D costs and prices. Since clinical trials are widely accepted as the most expensive part of the R&D process, more balanced access to information around how much they cost would increase the ability of governments and treatment providers to challenge industry claims of the need to recoup high R&D costs, and thus aid them in regulating and negotiating medical-product prices more effectively.
  • Accountability and maximising impact of public funding: Where public funding is invested in clinical trials, the costs of these trials should be made publicly available. There is increasing evidence that it is possible for clinical trials to be both high quality and low cost, thus maximising public return on public investment, when supported by accountability and transparency. Cost transparency would also support governments and other funders to set appropriate and proportional incentives and financing models for the delivery of clinical trials.
  • Access to medical products: Overall, the impacts of increased transparency of clinical trial costs would promote more diverse involvement in clinical trials, as well as support better access to the final products. This would both expand research and knowledge development into different areas of public health, whilst also ensuring access is a central consideration in these initiatives.
MSF’s TB PRACTECAL clinical trials have delivered a shorter, safer, and more effective treatment for people with drug-resistant tuberculosis.



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MSF Access Campaign — Medicines Are Not a Luxury

MSF Access Campaign — Medicines Are Not a Luxury

This blog is a place to reflect on our experiences working for access to medicines. For the official MSF Access Campaign website please visit