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Thailand: leading ASEAN in clinical research

Jun. 22, 2017

In Thailand, clinical research is an emerging industry promoting healthcare innovation and economic prosperity. Of all the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand leads in clinical research, especially in pharmaceuticals.

Population and workforce

Thailand's population and workforce are two factors that make it attractive to foreign investors.

Thailand's population consists of 68 million people. Its patient population is largely treatment-naïve, struggling from a wide profile of diseases.

Thailand's healthcare sector workforce is highly skilled due to a well-developed university and medical training network. As of 2014, this healthcare workforce was made up of over 28,000 physicians, 146,000 nurses, 11,000 pharmacists, and 6,000 dentists.

Furthermore, Thailand is home to more than 1,200 medical institutions, of which more than 60 hospitals and clinics provide specialized medical services. Private hospitals also feature state-of-the-art medical facilities and equipment that meet international standards and are easy to access.

Government support and grass-roots activism

Thailand provides cost-effective clinical trials due to government support.

Deloitte Access Economics estimated that US$320 million was spent on clinical trials in Thailand in 2015 alone. A total of 111,000 Thais participated in the clinical trials. These trials contributed approximately 0.05% of Thailand's GDP, totaling US$270 million.

Thailand also benefits from significant grass-roots activism from scientists and clinicians promoting clinical research. An organization leading this movement is Thailand towards Excellence in Clinical Trials (ThaiTECT).

ThaiTECT is a voluntary association consisting of stakeholders from investigator groups, medical institutions, clinical research centers, ethics committees, institutional review boards, sponsors, and the Food and Drug Administration Thailand.

ThaiTECT's goal is to achieve outstanding international standards in clinical trials in Thailand.

Medical tourism

Thailand is globally renowned for its alternative medicine. Its spas, traditional massages and herbal treatments have made Thailand attractive as a destination for medical tourism.

In 2003 and 2004, the Thai government set an ambitious goal via strategic policies to serve as the “Tourism Capital of Asia” and “Medical Hub of Asia” respectively.

With significant growth in demand from abroad, medical tourism is a perfect alignment of these two policies.

Collaboration with Universities

Thailand proactively collaborates with universities, healthcare centers, and medical research institutions abroad.

In April 2016, the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center in the United States launched the Thailand Hub, building on joint education initiatives and collaborative research studies from over the last 25 years.

A strong collaboration between the University of Minnesota and universities in Thailand, as well as with non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, form the foundation of the Thailand Hub.

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