Our most unwell patients will benefit from more than $7 million of funding awarded to Auckland District Health Board researchers by the Health Research Council (HRC).

Of the funded projects announced earlier in June, Auckland DHB’s intensive care researchers were particularly well represented.

The highest funding ($4.9 million) was awarded to research into the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia – a disease that results in more than 17,000 hospitalisations a year in New Zealand. Lead by Dr Colin McArthur, of the Department of Critical Care Medicine, the innovative trial design will investigate the best options for treating pneumonia in intensive care and hospital practice.

Significant milestone for Auckland DHB research

The five-year HRC-funded programme is a significant milestone for Auckland DHB research, as it is the first of these elite grants to be awarded to a full-time, hospital-based clinician. The study will be undertaken in conjunction with colleagues throughout New Zealand, and in Australia and Europe.

Dr McArthur received an additional $943,000 grant to investigate whether severely injured patients benefit from early administration of tranexamic acid to prevent abnormal blood clot breakdown (which can increase bleeding).

Colin is doing this in collaboration with Australian colleagues and local paramedics and emergency medicine and intensive care specialists. If effective, prophylactic tranexamic acid will become standard treatment in New Zealand ambulance services and emergency departments.

Another significant grant

Another significant grant was awarded to Dr Shay McGuinness of the Cardiothoracic and Vascular Intensive Care Unit. He will lead New Zealand’s contribution to an international randomised controlled trial of more than 4500 patients to determine what degree of anaemia requires blood transfusion in high risk patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

This study will be important for patients and healthcare services as both the risk and the costs of unnecessary blood transfusions will be reduced if this trial demonstrates the safety of a restrictive transfusion strategy.

All three grants will be managed centrally by the Wellington-based Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ). The MRINZ intensive care research division had further success, with two more project grants awarded to Wellington intensive care specialist Dr Paul Young for studies on oxygen therapy and intravenous fluid therapy in the ICU.

 Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group collaborators

Drs McArthur, McGuinness, and Young are all collaborators of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group. This network of 70 hospitals in Australia and NZ involves more than 500 researchers, clinicians, research coordinators, and project officers. All major NZ intensive care units are members of the network.

Dr Young believes that HRC’s investment of some $7 million in intensive care research over the past 10 years has had a significant and positive impact on the ICU practice.

“That investment has paid for itself many, many times over with the direct cost savings for the New Zealand healthcare system from our clinical trials estimated to be well over $150 million per year. Hundreds of people admitted to New Zealand’s ICUs every year now survive as a result of the practice changes that have occurred in response to our trials’ findings,” he says.

It wasn’t just the ICU team that received funding. Cardiologist Professor Ralph Stewart received nearly $1.2 million for a study to assist GPs identify the best treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation.