The country’s lead health agencies will explore system-level changes to maximise the benefits of clinical trials, based on recommendations from an independent research report.
The report – ‘Enhancing Aotearoa New Zealand Clinical Trials’ – is the result of 18 months’ research, which was led out of the Universities of Auckland and Otago and included a diverse team of clinical researchers, advisory and consumer groups.
It includes a range of recommendations for increasing access to, and participation in, clinical trials, with a focus on reducing inequities and conducting trials that are relevant to Aotearoa New Zealand. It also proposes a new model for supporting clinical trials, including a national centre for providing leadership, governance, expertise, and high-level coordination of trial activity, as well as four regional coordinating centres to support trials at local level.
The research was funded by Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health) and the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) with the aim of strengthening the clinical trials environment – a key component of a thriving health research sector and a priority of the New Zealand Health Research Strategy 2017-2027.
As well as emphasising the importance of Māori partnership at every level of development and implementation, the report recommends that all publicly funded clinical trials should include consumer research partners.
In response to the report, Manatū Hauora, Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand) and Te Aka Whai Ora (Māori Health Authority) are establishing a senior cross-agency working group to consider how the recommendations can be integrated within the health system, with each agency appointing a lead for the work.
Manatū Hauora’s chief science advisor, Dr Ian Town, says the health sector reforms provide a structural framework to support a smarter, fairer health system and the foundation for improving health outcomes, especially for Māori.
“To achieve Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) and deliver equitable, sustainable health services, we need innovative approaches backed by high-quality relevant evidence.
“We’re impressed with the depth and quality of research that’s informed these recommendations. We know clinical trials are a core part of a high-performing, learning health system, and this report provides the analysis and rationale for system-level improvements.”
He adds that a strong clinical trials environment would increase opportunities for involvement in international, multi-centre trials, enabling some patients to receive new medicines and treatments that are otherwise unavailable. This would also ensure Māori and other New Zealanders have equitable access to clinical trials for new treatments.
The HRC’s chief executive, Professor Sunny Collings, says when high-quality clinical trials are well-supported, and their findings are put into practice, it significantly improves health outcomes and health system performance, leading to economic benefits too.
Te Whatu Ora National Director of Improvement and Innovation Dr Dale Bramley says better coordination of the many clinical trials occurring across Aotearoa would help ensure the benefits were more evenly shared.
“We have a strong culture of innovation within the New Zealand health sector, which includes an amazing amount of clinical trial work happening at any one time. It is important that we rise to the challenge of joining all this work up so that where people live does not prevent them from participating in and benefiting from trials.”
Riana Manuel, Chief Executive of Te Aka Whai Ora says, “I welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with Mānatu Hauora and Te Whatu Ora to ensure our vision of pae ora – good health – for our whanau and our communities is achieved. A key priority of our mahi is building a sustainable health system that better serves our communities. Clinical trials are an important part of the health system as it provides the evidence to enable us to understand the needs of whānau and focus resources to deliver. We know that given the opportunity, Māori will contribute through meaningful engagement.”