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Clinical Trials

Parallel drug trials on humans are often carried out in different countries at the same time. Prompted by strategic and financial considerations, companies are increasingly transferring their clinical trials to developing countries and (in particular) emerging nations. This is true of all the large corporations, including Swiss enterprises such as Roche, Novartis and Actelion. This "globalisation" of clinical trials goes hand in hand with serious breaches of ethics which, moreover, occur in an environment that is very far from transparent.

  • Several million people are currently taking part in tens of thousands of clinical trials across the globe.
  • The pharmaceutical industry spends USD 80 to 90 billion per year on clinical trials, accounting for about 60 to 70% of its research and development budget. In 2012, Roche paid out USD 7 billion for this purpose, while the figure for Novartis was USD 5.5 billion.
  • In April 2013, Roche and Novartis each reported almost 1,000 active clinical trials.
  • In order to gain access to new markets and to keep costs down, corporations have transferred their clinical trials to developing and emerging countries. The work of implementing these trials is outsourced to subcontractors in half of these cases.
  • Between 1991 and 2005, the quota of clinical trials conducted in emerging countries rose from 10% to 40%. This percentage continued to increase between 2006 and 2010, whereas the proportion of tests carried out in Western Europe and the United States fell from 55% to 38%.
  • One in every two drugs sold in Switzerland has been developed (at least partially) on the basis of a clinical trial in a developing or emerging country.
  • The transfer of clinical trials on a significant scale to regions where access to care is not guaranteed − and regulations are less strict − leads to serious breaches of universal ethical standards.
  • The field of clinical trials continues to be very opaque: half of all clinical trials are never made public, and negative results are falsified or glossed over. This lack of transparency is highly detrimental to public health, and it also means that individuals taking part in the trials are exposed to hazards.
  • Based on the data published by Swissmedic, it is impossible to tell which clinical trials ultimately led to the approval of a specific drug in Switzerland.


Reports to download

June 2016:


September 2013:

Special edition of the Berne Declaration Magazine:


For more information:

Please check our French or German website.



Clinical Trials Conference Report

Clinical Trials Conference Report




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