Puerto Rico continues to work on rebuilding, with a goal to Build Back Better. Securing funds to accomplish this task continues to be top of mind for the leaders of the territory and coming up with a consistent shared vision is a challenge. As we’ve said before, it’s unrealistic to seek a plan that will work equally well for an unincorporated territory or for a state. Puerto Rico has officially requested statehood and Congress should act as soon as possible so that Puerto Rico can move forward. Without that essential action, however, Puerto Rico has to move ahead even without that clarity. And one option for building the economy is clinical research.
Puerto Rico has a history of strength in the healthcare field in general. Manufacturing medications and medical devices has been a major industry n Puerto Rico for many years. The continuing shortages of saline solution in the 50 states is largely the result of the drawn-out recovery from Hurricane Maria which has slowed down the production of saline bags in Puerto Rico.
The Island is currently suffering badly with healthcare, losing doctors at a dangerous rate and coping with shortages of medical supplies. However, the Puerto Rico Consortium for Clinical Investigation (PRCCI) sees a future for Puerto Rico as a clinical research hub.
Clinical research is about testing new healthcare treatments in human populations. The medications in these trials have already been tested at length in laboratories. Before being made available to doctors and patients, though, they have to be tested with people who suffer from the health issues they are designed to cure.
The PRCCI points out that clinical research is a growth field, already providing more than $10,000,000 annually to states like Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and California. This figure represents the spending of the pharmaceuticals industry. The PRCCI estimates that the actual contribution of clinical trials to the economy is closer to $25 billion.
Can Puerto Rico compete?
Puerto Rico has some advantages as a location for clinical research, assuming that the rebuilding is successful.
The University of Puerto Rico’s Medical Sciences campus offers an advanced degree in clinical research. This ensures a supply of qualified workers in this specialty. Puerto Rico has four fully LCME-accredited medical schools and many health sciences programs graduating qualified support staff. There is also a history of strategic partnerships between these universities and pharmaceutical companies. These connections can help keep Puerto Rico’s medical professionals on the Island.
Puerto Rico also has a level of diversity in the population which is higher than that of many states. It’s important in clinical trials to work with people from different backgrounds. In the past, doctors sometimes found that drugs worked very well for men, but not for women. Making sure that clinical trials included women was the solution. Now, doctors are concerned that clinical trials tend to include mostly people of European heritage. Puerto Rico’s high level of diversity makes it more likely that clinical trials will include a diverse population. This will lead to greater certainty about the safety and effectiveness of medications.
Geographically, Puerto Rico is a convenient location for U.S. researchers, requiring no passport for U.S. citizens. The laws and business environment are generally similar to the U.S. FDA regulations apply and there is a local FDA office, which lends credibility to results.
Center Watch already shows hundreds of clinical trials taking place in Puerto Rico. Most of the facilities running these trials and small to medium sized businesses offering knowledge-based jobs in Puerto Rico.
The State of Puerto Rico would be even better
Once Puerto Rico has reliable electricity and telecommunications for businesses across the Island, clinical research should be one of the many industries that can thrive in Puerto Rico. A strong economy based on work that will continue to be essential in the future will encourage people to stay in Puerto Rico, or to move to the Island from other states.
As long as Puerto Rico remains in limbo as to political status, however, investors will be nervous about putting down roots in Puerto Rico. Other territories that have become states have seen economic growth following statehood. Pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and trial volunteers alike will be reassured by the knowledge that clinical research in Puerto Rico will be regulated in the same way as such research in the states, without the threat of political upheaval.
Contact your legislators and let them know that you want statehood for Puerto Rico.