8 September 2016
Clinical trials of cutting-edge medical treatments – including a synthetic form of cannabis to counter a specific form of epilepsy – have begun at a new facility established by the University of the Sunshine Coast at Sippy Downs.
USC’s Clinical Trials Centre has been purpose-built at the Ochre Health Medical Centre, opposite the University on Sippy Downs Drive, and will give local residents the chance to participate in trials that previously were only offered in capital cities.
Centre director Lucas Litewka said the centre was partnering with experienced health providers across the region and would advertise for volunteer participants when required.
“The clinical trials will be conducted by qualified health professionals who provide a high standard of care and attention, while under consistent supervision of independent monitors and regulatory agencies,” he said.
Mr Litewka said the first three clinical trials to be held at the centre were assessing:
- A topical application of a pharmaceutical-grade cannabidiol (CBD), a component of cannabis, to counter epilepsy (this trial has specific eligibility requirements and is to be conducted with Sunshine Coast neurologist Dr Peter Patrikios);
- Emphysema medication that combines three existing therapies to help prevent, relieve and control symptoms at the same time (with Dr Evan Jones of Golden Beach Medical Centre); and
- An influenza test kit, described as a “digital hanky”, that can determine within 30 minutes if a person has a strain of influenza.
Mr Litewka described clinical trials as medical research studies aimed at finding new or better ways to treat and manage health conditions and illnesses.
“Clinical research is a key part of best-practice medicine and contributes to the collection of information to demonstrate the effectiveness of new medicines or treatment methods,” he said.
“If we don’t take part in clinical trials locally, we could find ourselves having to wait longer –up to 10 years in some cases – for new treatments and medicines to be approved for use in Australia.
“At the University of the Sunshine Coast, we want to be conducting research into these cutting-edge treatments, not just reading about them in the news.
“We also want doctors and patients across the region to have access to advanced therapies and not be disadvantaged because we are not a major metropolitan centre.”
Mr Litewka, whose staff include experienced research coordinators and USC Biomedical Science graduates, said the opening of USC’s Clinical Trials Centre would boost the region’s reputation for health research.
“We want to see clinical research drive employment opportunities for our talented students and to attract health professionals to our vibrant Sunshine Coast community,” he said.
“We hope to tackle health challenges within our community, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and mental health conditions, and look to attract research to make a real impact for individuals and the wider community.”
— Terry Walsh