SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574
Multinational pharmaceutical companies ('pharmas') import and produce pharmaceuticals and also conduct clinical trials which are an important aspect of research and development (R&D). This may raise the question: Is South Africa a guinea pig for the pharmas? The Department of Trade and Industry National Industrial Policy Framework1 designates chemicals, plastic fabrication and pharmaceuticals as a key value chain. So a second question could be: Can South Africa be a manufacturer for the pharmas, or can it leverage strengths in medical research and the conducting of clinical trials so as to develop a discovery-led industry? This paper analyses and quantifies the state of the clinical trials industry in South Africa, and concludes that: (i) a sizeable clinical trials industry exists, and that these trials are predominantly phase 3 and global in scope; (ii) South Africa is not a specific or unique guinea pig - a range of conditions is studied as part of global trials; and (iii) while South Africa has excellent prospects for increased clinical trials activity, R&D investment is too low to make it a major pharmaceutical contender.