Colombia may be known for its illegal drug trade, but its reputation for legitimate drug research is growing. Trial activity there is part of the uptick in clinical research in Latin America. In fact, Icon's Hammerschmidt says it's been the fastest-growing Latin American research market for the past 5 years.

Kudos goes to the country's sizable population--approximately 45 million--as well as its adequate medical infrastructure and qualified professionals. But Colombia's biggest selling point may be its careful, stringent regulators.

The National Institute of Drugs and Food Vigilance, or INVIMA, has instilled requirements to ensure patient protection and data quality. Colombian research sites must be audited and certified by INVIMA, and that requires GCP certification, Hammerschmidt says.

And Colombia's regulators are quick as well. Even with its stringent requirements, the country still manages to generate some of the shortest regulatory approval and importation times in the region, averaging around four months.

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