Work on creating a clinical trial unit at Haukeland University Hospital started in 2003. The adult unit was set up in 2006, and the following year the hospital became the first in Norway to have its own clinical trial unit for children.
Now the people behind it are ten years wiser, and proud of the results they have achieved. They have developed new, better medicines, and have tested out new treatments.
“The initiative has been important and successful. It is enormously valuable for Haukeland to have been involved in the cutting edge of clinical research,” says former Managing Director Stener Kvinnsland.
Throughout the past ten years, Research Director Ernst Omenaas has been in charge of Clinical Trial Unit, which has grown from handling just a few studies per year to around 60 in 2016, involving a total of 1,270 patient visits.
“It started small, with internal projects, but now other people are bringing their ideas to us. Clinical research is high on the agenda and we receive a lot of support,” says Omenaas. Having reached the end of his watch, he is handing over to Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, who will become the Research Director on 1 November.
One medical history was also shared during the event. It was the story of a cancer patient who feels lucky to live in a city with a university hospital that is willing to try out new medicines. He believes that’s why, right now, he is feeling better than he has for the past three years.
“They are doing cutting edge research for the whole of Norway, and I admire what the scientists and managers at the hospital are doing,” says Karita Bekkemellem, Managing Director of the Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Norway.
Consultant pediatrician and researcher Camilla Tøndel is leading the clinical trial unit for children at Haukeland. She says that many people have questioned the idea of performing research on children. Tøndel believes that it is important to shift the focus from protecting children against research to protecting them through research.
New, simpler treatment
One person who has tested a new medicine at the clinical trial unit for children and adolescents is 16-year-old Svein Helge. He has been taking part in a trial since May this year. As he has to go to Haukeland for check-ups several times a year, he doesn’t mind going a few extra times.
His old treatment meant having three injections a day. Now he takes a pill that does the same thing. The new medicine appears to be both simpler and better.
Both he and his father, Bernard, feel confident in the way things are run. Bernard finds it reassuring that the medicines have already been tested on adults, and that his son’s health condition is regularly monitored while he receives the new treatment.
“I guess the only risk is that it doesn’t work,” says Svein Helge.