Advanced legislation, high degree of digitalization and Finns with high level of commitment are the key benefits of Finland in clinical research.
Without doubt, Finland is an excellent area to run clinical trials and register-data based research.
Having done clinical research for almost two decades in several continents I can say I am privileged to work in Finland. Here, the health sector is seen as one of the building blocks for future growth, acknowledged also by the Finnish government. The potential and possibilities of the health sector, with focus on research and clinical trials, have been widely recognized.
In 2016, the Government published the ‘Health Sector Growth Strategy for Research and Innovation Activities, Roadmap for 2016–2018’. The strategy states that the latest research and technology should be used in the utilization of Finland’s unique health data registers. The most important concrete results of this strategy are the establishment of Comprehensive Cancer Center Finland (FICAN) and a genome centre in Finland. A law for secondary use of health data is expected this year. The aim of the new law is to increase the use of register data while ensuring that all ethical and privacy aspects are considered.
Finnish nationwide health and social care registers have long traditions and retrospective data from several decades. Widely used, comprehensive public health care enables access to health-related data with wide coverage. Additionally, data can be collected from several registers and combined with personal identifiers. Many research questions can be answered with this real-life data, either retrospectively or in combination with prospective follow-up. At Crown CRO we have many post-marketing authorization safety and efficacy trials ongoing.
In Finland, we also have a very advanced biobank law since 2014. Many of the biobanks have long traditions with samples dating back several decades. Four national and six local biobanks with hospital district coverage have close collaboration and several research projects. The most recent and very exciting example is the Finngen research project, in which one of the goals is to create a model for public-private cooperation in the health sector. The ultimate goal is to find new innovations based on health register and genomic data. At the end of the project, the researchers should have genomic data for 500 000 Finns connected to health register data. This huge amount of data will be analyzed for e.g. disease risks and effects of medicinal products.
The key factor that enables successful conduct of clinical trials and register research in Finland is the high level of education and general positive and supportive attitude towards research. This leads to an understanding of the rationale and potential benefits for use of genetic information and register data collected in standard health care.
When a Finn says ‘yes’, he or she commits. Patients and volunteers are willing to participate in research and clinical trials. The patient compliance in trials in Finland is always very high. The drop-out rate, not to mention lost patients, is minimal.
Indeed, I have a great gratitude towards dedicated and highly motivated investigators and networks, study nurses and coordinators, and all healthcare professionals performing clinical trials in their clinics. Also, we have facilities and infrastructure for demanding and complex trials.