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The state of Vietnam's clinical research capacity: Opportunities for growth

Jun. 22, 2017

With a sizeable population of 85 million, Vietnam is a prospective market for healthcare equipment and pharmaceutical products. While 90% of district-level medical facilities have X-ray equipment and 70% have ultrasound machines, the majority of this healthcare equipment is in poor condition. Inadequate financial and human resources have also resulted in maintenance and training problems.

Insufficient public funding

The Vietnamese government has insufficient public funding to support clinical research. Back in 2010, three ministries of the Vietnamese government offered competitive funding for clinical research but none were able to offer funds greater than US$50,000.

Vietnam currently depends on international organizations including the World Bank, the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank to support 80% of its healthcare sector. The Vietnamese government only covers 20%.

It is predicted that Vietnam will continue to depend largely on foreign funding for clinical research for the foreseeable future.

Facilities, infrastructure and personnel in Vietnam

Clinical research requires institutions with medical facilities, a strong infrastructure, and trained personnel. Few institutions in Vietnam meet these requirements.

There are approximately 1,180 hospitals in Vietnam but only 60 of these have been authorized by the Ministry of Health to conduct clinical research. Twenty of the 60 have the infrastructure in place but only 12 have been involved in clinical trials.

Vietnam also suffers from a lack of clinical investigators and biostatisticians who are essential to the domestic development of clinical research. Vietnamese medical and public health students tend to have little experience with clinical research and are mostly untrained in data analysis.

If Vietnam wishes to set its own clinical research direction and priorities as opposed to having foreign sponsors dictate it, the country must implement long-term, well-planned investments. These investments should be made to ensure the improvement of the country's clinical research capacity and develop home-grown expertise.

Swift growth in clinical research capacity and improved regulations

While Vietnam's clinical research capacity remains low, it has grown swiftly over the years. In 2010, Vietnam conducted only 25 clinical trials, but this figure had shot up to 72 in 2015.

The concept of community engagement in clinical research is not yet well established in Vietnam but the government has progressed in small steps. In 2012, Vietnam implemented regulations to include non-scientists in the Ministry of Health's Board of Ethical Assessment's community. In 2013, Vietnam introduced another regulation giving the Ministry of Health the power to approve clinical trials.

The Vietnamese government also improved regulations to protect participants of clinical trials. The improved regulations implemented in 2015 require that all clinical trials conducted in Vietnam be registered in ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies human participants conducted around the world.

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