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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 crisis.

A women with hand osteoarthritis rubs her hands together

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).

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

Like many research studies during the Coronavirus pandemic, the HOPE-e study paused recruitment on 16 March 2020, but were delighted to be able to restart the study from the end of August at various sites including the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, part of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Oxford.

The study team has made several modifications to the study to allow it to run in the new COVID-secure era. Four of the five study visits are now typically carried out remotely over the telephone with only the first screening visit requiring a face-to-face visit to the clinic.

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 participants until the end of December 2020.

More information on taking part can be found on the HOPE-e website.

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