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Case study: Taking part in sinus research: Gordon’s story

Taking part in sinus research: Gordon's story

A Reading father-of-two has urged people to consider taking part in health research to shape the future of healthcare after joining a trial into a condition that severely blocked his nose.

Gordon Reynolds, 70, spoke ahead of International Clinical Trials Day on 20 May, a day of awareness-raising about the importance of health research.

The former telephone engineer said he suffered a “runny nose and streaming eyes all the time” after experiencing chronic rhinosinusitis for 10 years.

He joined the MACRO study at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. He has received antibiotic clarithromycin or a placebo dummy drug but will not know which until the trial has finished.

Chronic rhinosinusitis is a sinus disease that affects 1 in 10 adults in the UK. Symptoms include severe nasal congestion, a runny nose and a decreased sense of smell.

Gordon, who tried other medications and nasal sprays, said: I was suffering quite a lot, every morning I would wake up with a blocked nose and no matter how many times I blew my nose, I just couldn’t clear it.

“My sense of smell was terrible. I couldn’t smell my food or flowers outside. 

“I felt like the condition stopped me from doing some everyday things because I found it embarrassing to go out with a runny nose and streaming eyes all the time.”

He was referred to the hospital where he was told he had chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps, a condition where the lining of the nose and sinuses become swollen. 

He said: “The doctors mentioned having an operation, which I know is a difficult operation, so I wasn’t too keen to have it. They then mentioned the MACRO trial which they explained meant I might be able to avoid surgery.”

The trial -  funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) - investigates three treatment options to identify which is the most effective:

  • Antibiotic clarithromycin 
  • Placebo (dummy drug) 
  • Surgery to open the sinuses for access to medications 

Researchers and participants do not know if they are taking the antibiotic or placebo tablet, to prevent bias. Patients in all three options use a nasal steroid spray and perform nasal rinsing with a squeeze bottle of saline solution inserted into the nostrils to clear mucus.

Gordon joined the trial last July and took a tablet for 3 months with the nasal spray, which he used for 6 months. He also completed tests including if he could identify certain smells.

He said: “I was useless at the tests to start with, I couldn’t smell anything. As time went on, I got a lot better.”

Gordon, married to Rose for 42 years, said his condition has improved: “Now I can finally smell the food my wife cooks and notice little things like someone having a bonfire when we go out for a walk. 

“I can’t explain the feeling of relief, my nose and eyes have stopped running. It’s such a vast improvement.”

The national study aims to recruit 510 people from  20 UK sites. Results will be published once the trial and follow-up is complete in 2024. 

Participating in health research helps develop new treatments, improve the NHS, public health and social care and save lives.

The NHS, public health and social care supports research by giving patients opportunities to take part in trials. Healthy people can also take part so results can be compared to those with a medical condition.

Gordon said: “If someone is suffering that much like I was, I’d say to give these research opportunities a go. The nurses and doctors talk you through everything and you are not forced in any way.”

Patients are also encouraged to ask their doctor or health professional about research opportunities, view trials seeking volunteers and sign up to be contacted about studies at 

To find out more about the MACRO study, visit