The UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has reported a high participation of the UK’s hospitals in clinical research ophthalmic studies. The study reports that there was an average 15,500 patients recruited into studies every year with ongoing improvements in performance. The purpose of the report was to outline the composition and performance of the national portfolio of ophthalmic research studies in the United Kingdom. The initiative showed that the NIHR’s Clinical Research Network (UK CRN) was capable to harnessing researchers and resources to build significant outputs, including gene therapies, novel drug delivery systems, robotic surgery and artificial intelligence research outcomes.
In the report, the Clinical Research Network (CRN) showed that patient recruitment between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2018 comprised 137,377 participants over an 8-year period (averaging of 15,457 participants/year; range: 5485–32,573). Fourteen percent of studies had a genetic component and most studies (82%) included only adults. The majority of studies (41%) enrolled patients with retinal diseases, followed by glaucoma (17%), anterior segment and cataract (13%), and ocular inflammation (6%). According to the study, overall 68% of non-commercial studies and 55% of commercial studies recruited within the anticipated time set by the study and also recruited to or exceeded the target number of participants.
Of interest, in one period (2013/2014). there was a particularly high recruitment number of patients – 32,573 -, including a single cohort commercial study into which 19,100 people were recruited. In addition, there were a non-commercial:commercial ratio that ranged between 3.3:1 in 2012/2013 and 1.4:1 in 2016/17. The contribution of commercial studies to the total number of studies per year increased during this time period. More studies were observational in design than interventional with an observational:interventional ratio that ranged between 1.4:1 and 0.7:1 for these year points. In conclusion, the study indicated that high levels of clinical research activity, growth and improved performance had been observed in ophthalmology in UK over the 8-year period. The research stated that, “some sub-specialties that carry substantial morbidity and a very high burden on NHS services are underrepresented and deserve more patient-centred research. Yet the NIHR and its CRN Ophthalmology National Specialty Group has enabled key steps in achieving the goal of embedding research into every day clinical care”.