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Women sought for resumed hand osteoarthritis study

Researchers in Oxford are looking to recruit women who have painful osteoarthritis in joints of their hands, after resuming a study that was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hand osteoarthritis affects more than two million people in the UK. There are few evidence-based interventions to treat the condition, other than pain relief and exercise, which are often inadequate.

The NIHR-funded HOPE-e study is recruiting post-menopausal women to see whether painful osteoarthritis in joints of their hands can be treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This medication can only be taken by post-menopausal women.

Like many research studies during the pandemic, the HOPE-e study paused recruitment on 16 March and restarted at the end of August at sites including the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Oxford part of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The study team made modifications to the trial to allow it to run in the new COVID-secure era. Four of the five study visits each participant makes are now typically carried out over the telephone with only the first screening visit face-to-face in the clinic.

Randomisation now occurs remotely and there is a new option to courier the study medication to the participant where necessary. Also, study questionnaires are provided by post with pre-paid envelopes and participants can record their own blood pressure at home.

Professor Fiona Watt, HOPE-e Chief Investigator, based at University of Oxford's Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, says “With all bar one of the study visits now possible remotely, COVID has taught us how much we can do by phone and online.

“Just like the NHS, research needs to be flexible and change to new models where we can, whilst making sure everyone stays safe.

“Ultimately, we hope this ‘new look’ may also prove popular with women who work, have busy lives or live further away who have painful hand osteoarthritis and want to take part in the study.”

The study is recruiting women aged 40 to 65 years old who are one to 10 years after their menopause. Participants take a type of HRT tablet or a placebo (inactive tablet) for 24 weeks.

The study is recruiting participants until the end of December 2020 and is on track to reach its target.

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