Pandemic wreaks havoc with clinical trials and healthcare programs

Millions of dollars of research funding

Clinical trials and preventative healthcare programs worth millions of dollars in research funding have collapsed due to a lack of participation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programs, such as those targeting childhood obesity or blood pressure in regional areas, are among those that have ground to a halt over the past month.

"We have got a situation now where these programs are halfway through and they have stopped," Director NSW Regional Health Partners Professor Christine Jorm said.

"Hundreds of thousands of dollars in research investment is being written off."

Director NSW Regional Health Partners Professor Christine Jorm

Director NSW Regional Health Partners Professor Christine Jorm

NSW Regional Health Partners, which is part of the Australian Health Research Alliance, aims to accelerate the translation of evidence into practice to improve the health and wellbeing of regional, rural and remote communities.

In another example of the pandemic's impact, a program targeting cardiovascular disease and childhood health in Central Australia has stopped because health workers are no longer able to visit the communities.

"There will be long term consequences for very practical kinds of research that is designed to produce an impact. It's not ivory tower stuff, this is about making things better on the ground," Professor Jorm said.

A clinical trial examining the effects of statins on disease has collapsed because the elderly participants are not allowing nurses to visit them in their homes.

"There is a really big risk to the ongoing investment we have made to medical research; the projects are not only not going to deliver the result but some of them won't get going again," Professor Jorm said.

But the pandemic has also offered health researchers unexpected opportunities.

The impact of elective surgery delays on patients and the surge in telehealth consultations during the pandemic are two areas that have recently caught the eye of researchers.

"We should be checking with patients to see how they are going while they are on the waiting list. It's an incredible opportunity resulting from a natural experiment that is happening," Professor Jorm said.

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This story Millions of dollars of research funding "written off" first appeared on The Canberra Times.