Launch of new national network to reverse the burden of musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis

Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions affect more than 6 million Australians, yet these conditions are under-researched in comparison to less burdensome diseases. Today in Melbourne a new centre will open that aims to redress this inequity in musculoskeletal research.

The Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, will launch the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence for the Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal (ANZMUSC) Clinical Trials Network, at Cabrini Institute in Melbourne.

The launch coincides with the publication, at 4 am in London, of a series in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, on the global burden of low back pain. The committee of authors behind the series is led by Professor Rachelle Buchbinder, from the Monash University Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, who also heads the ANZMUSC Clinical Trials Network.

According to Professor Buchbinder, despite the enormous number of people affected by musculoskeletal conditions, “there has been little improvement in the way we deal with these conditions – largely through lack of research funding, uptake of research findings into practice, and failing to address the most important research questions” she said.

“With an ageing population, and an increasingly obese one, we need a coordinated approach to ensure that we address the rising burden of musculoskeletal conditions.”

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, said the Australia and New Zealand Musculoskeletal Clinical Trials Network would advance vital research into conditions such as arthritis and back pain. 

“Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions affect almost one in four Australians, but coordinated approaches to ensuring that research focuses on the most important questions - including optimising uptake of evidence into practice - has long been lacking. This new network will enable clinicians, researchers and consumers to work together to deliver better treatments and outcomes for people with MSK complaints,” Professor Gardner said.

“Monash has an exceptional international reputation for leading a diverse array of clinical trials. This new collaborative network involving numerous universities and institutes will help to curb the impact of MSK conditions that affect hundreds of millions of sufferers worldwide.”

The ANZMUSC, while led by Monash University, also involves the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, Bond University, The George Institute and other institutes and universities across Australia and New Zealand.