It is a rare thing that a cure can be found for a chronic disease.
Yet such a thing did happen recently with the revolution in treatments for hepatitis C. The new Direct-Acting Antiviral medicines could cure over 90 per cent of those treated, in 8 to 24 weeks with minimal side effects. Compare this to previous treatment regimens of 24 to 48 weeks, often with severe side effects, and cure rates of only 50 to 80 per cent.
Such breakthroughs would not have been possible without concerted, meticulous research and coordinated clinical trials around the world. So it is disappointing to hear (see media report and AMA article) that South Australia’s brand new state-of-the-art Royal Adelaide Hospital, will have no room for clinical trials.
It is believed that at best, only 15 per cent of the 350 current trials currently underway will be accommodated at the new RAH.
Leading medical experts and community organisations have voiced their concern over this lack of provision.
In a letter to the media, Hepatitis SA Executive Officer, Kerry Paterson, pointed out that the RAH was the premier hospital in this state which ran the clinical trials that have led to this outstanding result for people with hepatitis C.
“In the three months [the new medicines] have been available, 1,200 South Australians have commenced treatment,” she said. “This figure – a tripling of the number of people treated in the previous year – represents 10 per cent of South Australians living with hepatitis C.
It would be a tragedy if the new RAH could not find a way to accommodate these ongoing clinical trials…
“The revolution continues in new medications, with even greater improvements in cure rates, now approaching 100 per cent.
“It would be a tragedy if the new RAH could not find a way to accommodate these ongoing clinical trials in hepatitis C and allow the expertise of the clinical trials staff involved to continue to contribute to this success story for South Australia.”
In a letter to The Advertiser, past Head of Clinical Hepatology, RAH, Associate Professor Hugh Harley, and past Deputy Chair of Human Research Ethics Committee, RAH, Associate Professor Barry Chatterton, point out that the logistics of clinical trials mean they could not be conducted if patient care and research co-ordination are not on the same site where patients, doctors, research staff and laboratories are located throughout the day.
“Any change to this will make future access to such clinical trials almost impossible,” they said.
If you have benefited from clinical trials, and would like other South Australians to have the same opportunity, email the Health Minister…
Hepatitis SA understands that the only solution offered by the Health Minister to date is to accommodate clinical trials administration in an existing building at the old RAH site which is at the opposite end of North Terrace from the new RAH.
This divorcing of the administrative and clinical functions of medical research does not acknowledge the fact that the two are inextricably linked, with the same personnel largely providing both functions.
Ms Paterson pointed out that it would be extremely inefficient for these highly skilled staff to travel constantly between the two locations.
Another voice supporting this point is Past Director of Endocrine and Metabolic Unit, RAH, Philip Harding, who pointed out in his letter to The Advertiser that, “The concept that all research could be done at SAHMRI naively ignored the distinction between basic and clinical research.”
Ms Paterson urged the Minister to reconsider all possible options to find a solution, “so that the new RAH can continue to attain excellence in clinical research into the future, for the benefit of all South Australians.”
If you have benefited from clinical trials, and would like other South Australians to have the same opportunity, email the Health Minister to express your concern and urge him to keep clinical trials at the RAH. Let him know how that has changed your life. Alternatively, call a radio station or send a letter to your local newspaper.