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Clinical trials of medicines worth more than $1.2 billion to New Zealand

Globally, 20th May is International Clinical Trials Day, and a new report independently commissioned by Medicines New Zealand estimates that since 2013, clinical trials of prescription medicines have contributed at least $1.2 billion to the New Zealand economy and have benefitted the health system and Kiwi patients.

The report authored by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) is the first ever to quantify the economic impact of clinical trials that are sponsored by the prescription medicines industry. The report also showed that while the economic estimates are conservative, the clinical trials activity in New Zealand would appear to be contributing more to GDP on a direct per capita basis than it does in other countries.

“This report really highlights the value that clinical trials undertaken by the biopharmaceutical industry bring to the New Zealand economy. Not only does the report establish the economic contribution of clinical trials but also the impact on employment with almost 1000 highly skilled jobs associated with or in the clinical trials sector here in New Zealand” said Dr Graeme Jarvis, CEO of Medicines New Zealand.

The overall trends in the number and type of clinical trials and sorts of medicines studied showed that the GDP contribution was mainly due to Phase 3 trials - which are studies done to determine the effectiveness of a medicine for a specific disease by trialling it in patients suffering from that disease. However the report also noted that the level of the economic contribution of the clinical trials sector has become relatively static in New Zealand.

Despite the lack of growth recently, there is now an opportunity for New Zealand given its good response to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the impact that COVID-19 is having on the clinical trial sector in other countries. Restrictions on both the movement of people and limited business activities internationally, has meant that it is a struggle to recruit patients and conduct trials.

“In some cases recruitment rates internationally have dropped by up to 80% so clinical trials have been delayed or are progressing very slowly, whereas here our contacts in the clinical trials sector, indicate that New Zealand is once again very much open for business” said Dr Jarvis.

Clinical trials were seen as one of the areas of focus in last year’s Health Research Strategy. Therefore, to ensure that New Zealand is able to maximise opportunities, it will be essential that the clinical trials sector and the government work collaboratively to attract additional clinical trial activity and funding into New Zealand.

“There is every reason to believe that the clinical trials sector can become an even bigger export earner for New Zealand in the near term. Medicines New Zealand and its members look forward to continued collaboration and engagement from both the clinical trials sector and the New Zealand Government on this matter" said Dr Jarvis.

The report is available here or from the NZIER website.


Medicines New Zealand is the industry group representing biopharmaceutical companies operating in New Zealand. We advocate for the benefits of modern medicines as part of a high-quality public health system. Our objective is to ensure that New Zealanders have access to the right medicines at the right

Kristen Edwards, Communications Advisor, Medicines New Zealand.
Ph: 027 534 6461