Canberra Hospital trial informs patient drug treatment regime

Canberra Hospital has featured prominently in an important new trial around the administration of a drug commonly used to control fever in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients.

The results of the “blinded” trial, conducted in hospitals around Australia and New Zealand, and published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), revealed that widespread prescribed use of the drug acetaminophen, more widely known as paracetamol, within the ICU may not have the recuperative benefits to which it has often been credited.

In fact, the trial found that paracetamol used to treat fever due to probable infection did not reduce the amount of time patients spent in ICU, nor did it improve any other relevant outcomes. Importantly however, paracetamol use in this group of patients also did not cause any harm and was shown to be safe.

Some 700 ICU patients with fever known to, or possibly attributed to infection were randomly chosen for the trial.

Half were given the drug, and the other half, a placebo.

There was no risk to any patient as a result of the trial, nor any adverse effects attributed to their voluntary participation.

Associate Professor Frank van Haren, the Director of Intensive Care Research at the Canberra Hospital, said that it was important for these trials to be undertaken so that patients – particularly those admitted to Intensive Care where patients are critically ill, often in need of a combination of life saving treatments– only receive medication which is medically proven to be effective and safe.

“Through this trial, we are better informing the intensive care medical community worldwide, which allows physicians to make better choices,” Prof van Haren said.

He added that trials such as this underpinned the importance of the Canberra Hospital’s teaching  and research role not just within Australia but across the world.

“Research is not just isolated to the laboratory; it is also about engaging with people,” he said.

“Successful, published trials such as this are proof of how important hospitals and their patients are to productive clinical research.”

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Published date: 

Thursday, October 22, 2015