A major study of medicines to treat the pain of arthritis has been launched in Scotland.
The SCOT (Standard Care versus Celecoxib Outcome) Trial will compare different types of treatment for arthritis – a series of conditions which affects millions of people worldwide.
The trial compares traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac with the newer NSAID celecoxib.
Both types of NSAID are prescribed for treating arthritis but doctors want to know how celecoxib compares with older NSAIDs in patients with arthritis in terms of long-term safety.
Professor Tom MacDonald, lead investigator and head of clinical pharmacology at the University of Dundee, said: “This trial is of international significance because it will compare the various NSAID treatments prescribed for arthritis sufferers in usual care.
“There has been a long-running debate as to the most effective pain relief with fewest side-effects.
“This study will help us draw some solid conclusions to benefit arthritis sufferers.”
Scotland will spearhead the trial, which has attracted more than £25m of investment locally.
Professor Ian Ford, of the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at Glasgow University, said: “Scotland now has one of the best electronic patient record systems in the world.
“We can harness the power of the information this gives us to examine medicines in the real-life setting of care within the NHS.”
The University of Dundee will lead the trial in partnership with the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
There is also collaboration with Nottingham University’s Professor Chris Hawkey, a specialist in the effects of these drugs on the stomach, and Professor Jesper Hallas at the University of Southern Denmark.
Denmark has a similar patient record system to that of Scotland, and the results from Denmark will serve to check that the Scottish results can be generalised to other countries.
Professor Stuart Ralston, from Edinburgh University, said: “NSAIDs play an important role in the treatment of arthritis but we know that side-effects, such as stomach upset, can occur in some patients.
“This study will provide important new information on the risks and benefits of older versus newer NSAIDs and will help us to decide what the best treatment is for the individual patient.”
Professor David Reid, of the University of Aberdeen, commented: “This trial coming to Scotland demonstrates how universities and the NHS can work in partnership to answer some of the big questions in the treatment of arthritis.”
Some 400 GP practices and 16,000 patients will participate in the three-year trial.
The study, funded by Pfizer via an independent research grant, is a significant investment in research which will be based in hundreds of GP practices across Scotland.
Dundee GP Dr Alex Watson said: “It is important that this study is done in the ‘real world’ of Scottish general practice and not just with the highly-selected patients attending a specialist research centre.”
The criteria for patients to be eligible to participate in the SCOT study means they must be aged 60 or over and should already be taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen or diclofenac which has been prescribed by their GP for arthritis.