Clinical trials company P3 Research has opened in Palmerston North.
Its Broadway Ave unit is P3's fifth site. A Kāpiti unit opened early last year and the company also has sites in Wellington, Hawke's Bay and Tauranga.
With Palmerston North having a catchment of 250,000 people, it makes establishing a site in the city a viable proposition, managing director Richard Stubbs says.
The first Palmerston North study is seeking people with severe psoriasis. The second is looking for over 60-year-olds to trial a vaccine for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Stubbs says there is currently no vaccine for RSV.
The third study is likely to be another RSV vaccine developed by another company.
The fourth scheduled study will look at whether a Pfizer Covid-19 booster vaccine should be given at the same time as an influenza vaccine or a month apart.
The Palmerston North unit has three clinic rooms and is managed by Dee Hunter with Sarah Holwell a study coordinator. Both are registered nurses who used to work in clinical trials for cancer treatment at Palmerston North Hospital.
Stubbs says P3 Research doesn't run first-in-human trials. The drugs it tests have already been tested in healthy volunteers so P3 staff know the basic parameters of safety, dose to use, and what to expect.
Trials focus on safety (anybody harmed), tolerability (side effects), and efficacy (does it work).
Each time volunteers come into the clinic staff ask them if anything out of ordinary has happened since the last visit. Stubbs says it's a meticulous process and if something out of the ordinary happens the investigator will make a judgment whether it's related to the drug and if it's safe to keep going.
Anonymised results of trials are sent electronically to a central point - P3 does not do the analysis.
Clinical trials are very regulated processes with client companies sending monitors in, he says. P3's clients are Pfizer, MSD (Merck & Co), Janssen-Cilag, GSK, and AstraZeneca.
People who enter clinical trials tend to be interested in medical research and find they like the pleasant, unrushed process, he says. They receive information about their condition and time to talk.
"There's no question people enjoy the experience."
Volunteers are often motivated by altruism and contributing to knowledge as they want to see treatments get better.
Stubbs says surveys show about 8 per cent of New Zealanders are interested in clinical trials but he suspects the true figure is closer to 1-2 per cent. These are people generous with their time and able to be easily reassured.
Drug companies favour doing trials in New Zealand because of the quality of health professionals and care here and that our regulatory and ethics approval processes are efficient but thorough, Stubbs says.
He is working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to promote internationally the benefits of conducting clinical trials in Aotearoa.