Professor Emily Banks wins national award for medical research excellence

30 May 2016

Professor Emily Banks has shared a $10,000 prize for her work on a study that focused on whether an episode of the TV show Catalyst led to a drop in the number of Australians taking heart attack medication.

Professor Banks and lead researchers from the University of Sydney and UNSW won the Medical Journal of Australia MDA National Prize for Excellence in Medical Research for their research.

The study, released in June 2015, showed more than 60,000 Australians cut back on or stopped taking statins in the eight months after the Catalyst program The Heart of the Matter aired. Medication records of 191,000 Australians were examined as part of the study. 

The ABC has since removed the Catalyst episode from public view.

Professor Banks said it was great to receive this recognition given the level of public importance on the issue the researchers studied.

"I was extremely concerned that the ABC program might have had a bad impact on cardiovascular prevention so I was even more concerned when I saw these results," she said.

"And receiving this award, if it helps people to take this issue seriously and to act to remedy it, then that's a terrific thing."

It's the second award that the research paper has received. It also received an award from the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology.

"It's very important for the media to be able to comment on matters that are in the public interest, but the problem here was that this program was, by the ABC's own review, found to have breached their impartiality standards. So this research has really highlighted the importance of those standards and that those standards are upheld," Professor Banks said.

"We are not saying don't have these discussions. We are saying if you're going to have these discussions, they need to be done in a balanced and impartial way."

The researchers say they will be doing follow-up studies to determine what has happened to use of statins in the longer term.

Professor Banks and her colleagues, including lead author Ms Andrea Schaffer from the University of Sydney, Professor Sallie-Anne Pearson and Associate Professor Timothy Dobbins from the University of NSW and Professor Nicholas Buckley from the University of Sydney were presented their prize and plaque at the Australian Medical Association's 2016 National Conference in Canberra.