Patients play a critical role in developing novel syncope treatments

Syncope research pioneer Dr. Robert Sheldon has teamed up with patients across Canada to produce cutting-edge treatments through the execution of a first-in-world trial.
Sheldon, a CANet Investigator, and professor at University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine received a CANet Strategic Research Grant totaling $249,929 for his project, ‘Assessment of Norepinephrine Transport Inhibition to Prevent Recurrent Vasovagal Syncope.’
The CANet-funded project has helped doctors and researchers answer critical yet often over-looked questions such as – what is the acceptable threshold of side effects and discomfort for patients in exchange for them taking drugs for the treatment of syncope? How often and when are patients willing to take pills?
Currently, there are no proven medical treatments for syncope.
“We have to make it worthwhile for them to take the drug,” Sheldon says. “What drives us is patient involvement. It’s a complete eye-opener and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The answers to these questions are critical in shaping and defining the way Sheldon and his teams conduct clinical trials of Atomoxetine, and increase the chances of a successful trial.
Atomoxetine is an experimental drug projected to reduce the occurrence and suffering of syncope in Canada, decrease emergency room visit and empower patients to manage their care.
Syncope affects around 50 percent of Canadians every year. People suffer from decreased quality of life, trauma, and loss of employment.
“What drives us is patient involvement,” Sheldon says. “It is a complete eye-opener and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.”
The project has used the information gained from patient-surveys and the trial itself to create educational websites and decision-aids for patients and physicians dealing with syncope.
Sheldon and his team are collaborating with the global non-profit organization, Syncope Trust & Reflex Anoxic Seizures (STARS), to develop these critical resources.
“CANet has played an important role in advancing syncope research in Canada,” he says. “CANet organized a ‘patient day’ at Alberta Health Services long before this study. At that event, patients shared with us what was essential for them, and what their priorities were.”
Those inputs, according to Sheldon, have guided and driven forward CANet’s commitment to engage and empower patients, and together with them, revolutionize syncope research in Canada.
“When you hear what’s important to patients and when you figure out how to address it successfully, that is an amazing feeling,” Sheldon says.