Month: May 2024

Structured medication reviews for patients with multimorbidity and polypharmacy

Polypharmacy, or the use of multiple medications simultaneously, is a growing concern, especially among older people. Nearly one-third of people aged over 65 years of age in the UK take five or more medications daily. This is because people are living longer and often have multiple chronic illnesses that require medication.

The Risks of Polypharmacy

When people take many medications, there’s a risk that some may not be necessary or might even be harmful. This can lead to:

  • A heavy burden of managing multiple medications daily, which is time-consuming and stressful for patients.
  • Difficulty in sticking to complex medication routines, especially for people with low health literacy or poor English language skills.
  • Increased chances of adverse drug reactions and interactions, leading to potential harm and is severe cases to hospital admission.

Given these risks, optimizing medication use is crucial, especially for those with multiple health issues.

Medication Reviews (MRs)

One way to address the problems of polypharmacy is through medication reviews. This process involves a detailed assessment of a patient’s medications to ensure they are appropriate, safe, and effective. However, studies show mixed results on their effectiveness. While they may improve medication-related outcomes, they don’t always significantly impact overall health or quality of life.

The Rise of Structured Medication Reviews (SMRs)

Recognising the limitations of traditional medication reviews, structured medication reviews (SMRs) have been introduced. SMRs offer a more comprehensive approach, focusing on:

  • Tailoring medication plans to the individual needs, preferences, and circumstances of the patient.
  • Including patients and their families in decision-making about their medications.
  • Often involving a multidisciplinary team for complex cases to ensure a thorough review.

The Impact of COVID-19 and Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the use of technology in healthcare, including remote care options like phone, video, or online consultations. This shift aims to provide convenient, rapid access to healthcare and could improve the delivery of medication reviews. However, it’s still unclear how effective remote SMRs are compared to in-person reviews.

The Need for Further Research

While SMRs show promise, more research is needed to understand:

  • How well SMRs work for different patient populations, especially those in primary care.
  • The impact of remote delivery of SMRs on patient outcomes.
  • How SMRs can best be implemented to improve health outcomes for those with complex medical needs.


Structured Medication Reviews represent a significant advance in managing polypharmacy, aiming to tailor medication plans to individual needs and involving patients in the process. However, ongoing research and adaptation, especially with the rise of remote healthcare, are necessary to maximise their benefits and ensure they meet the needs of diverse patient populations in the UK and elsewhere.

Structured medication reviews for adults with multimorbidity and polypharmacy in primary care: a systematic review protocol.

A New Era in Alzheimer’s Disease: Promising Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a devastating condition affecting millions of people worldwide, with a significant impact on patients, families, and healthcare systems. Recent breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment are offering new hope. Let’s explore these exciting developments and what they mean for the future of Alzheimer’s care based on our recent article in the The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s  Disease.

The Rising Challenge of Alzheimer’s Disease

Globally, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, contributing to the majority of late-onset dementia cases. With an aging population, the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s is expected to rise, even if the age-specific rates of incidence and prevalence remain stable. This increase poses a significant challenge to healthcare systems, families and carers.

Current Diagnostic Pathways

Traditionally, diagnosing Alzheimer’s involves a combination of clinical assessments, imaging studies, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tests. While these methods are effective, they are also invasive, costly, and not widely accessible. This has created a barrier to early and accurate diagnosis, particularly in primary care settings.

A Breakthrough in Diagnosis: Blood-Based Biomarkers

One of the most exciting developments in Alzheimer’s research is the emergence of blood-based biomarkers. These biomarkers can detect the pathological signs of Alzheimer’s disease, such as amyloid and tau protein levels, through a simple blood test. This innovation offers a less invasive, more scalable, and cost-effective diagnostic tool, potentially revolutionizing the way Alzheimer’s is diagnosed and managed.

Key Benefits of Blood-Based Biomarkers:

  • Non-Invasive: Unlike lumbar punctures and PET scans, blood tests are much less invasive and easier to administer.
  • Accessibility: Blood tests can be conducted in both primary and specialist care settings, making early diagnosis more accessible.
  • Cost-Effective: These tests are expected to be more affordable than current diagnostic methods, reducing the financial burden on healthcare systems.

Advancements in Treatment: Monoclonal Antibody Therapies

Recent trials of novel disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) using anti-amyloid monoclonal antibodies, such as Lecanemab and Donanemab, have shown promising results. These therapies target and reduce amyloid plaques in the brain, which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Administered early in the disease course, these treatments have the potential to slow cognitive decline and improve quality of life.

Challenges and Considerations:

  • Cost: The high cost of these therapies presents a significant challenge, especially given the large number of potential patients.
  • Infrastructure: Implementing these therapies requires substantial investment in healthcare infrastructure, including diagnostic and treatment capacity.
  • Training: Healthcare professionals need training to administer these new treatments and manage potential side effects.

Readiness of Healthcare Systems

Adopting these new diagnostic tools and therapies on a large scale will require healthcare systems to overcome several hurdles. Increased diagnostic capacity, additional training for healthcare workers, and greater public awareness are essential steps. Additionally, ensuring these treatments are affordable will be crucial for their widespread adoption.

The Future of Alzheimer’s Care

The integration of blood-based biomarkers and monoclonal antibody therapies marks a new era in Alzheimer’s care. These advancements hold the promise of earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and improved outcomes for patients. However, realizing this potential will require coordinated efforts to address the financial, logistical, and educational challenges involved.


The fight against Alzheimer’s disease is entering an exciting phase with the development of innovative diagnostic tools and treatments. By investing in these advancements and addressing the challenges, we can hope for a future where Alzheimer’s is diagnosed earlier and managed more effectively, improving the lives of millions affected by this debilitating disease.

See for article.

Semaglutide and Cardiovascular Disease: Looking Critically at Absolute Risk Reduction, Cost-Effectiveness and Safety

The recent media coverage on semaglutide’s potential in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) has raised hopes and questions alike. While the drug has shown promise in reducing cardiovascular risk, it’s crucial to look beyond the relative risk reduction figures often highlighted in the news.

To truly understand the impact of semaglutide, we must delve into the absolute risk reduction, cost-effectiveness, and long-term safety data. While the reported relative risk reduction is significant, it’s crucial to consider the absolute risk reduction to accurately assess the semaglutide’s effectiveness and calculate the number needed to treat (NNT) to prevent one adverse CVD event.

These principles can be used to look at how any drug should be used in healthcare system’s such as the UK’s NHS. What are the key considerations?

Relative Risk Reduction (RRR): Indicates the percentage reduction in risk between the treatment group and the control group.

Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR): Measures the actual difference in event rates between the treatment and control groups, offering a clearer view of the treatment’s real-world impact.

Number Needed to Treat (NNT): NNT is derived from the ARR and indicates how many patients need to be treated to prevent one adverse event. It is calculated as NNT = 1/ARR.

Relative risk reduction (RRR), a commonly reported statistic in research articles and press releases, can sometimes exaggerate a drug’s benefits. Absolute risk reduction (ARR), on the other hand, provides a clearer picture of the actual difference in risk between those taking the medication and those who are not. This is crucial because a seemingly impressive RRR might translate to a small ARR, especially in low-risk populations.

The number needed to treat (NNT), derived from the ARR, tells us how many patients need to be treated to prevent one adverse event. A lower NNT indicates a more effective treatment. Understanding the NNT in different risk groups is essential for making informed decisions about treatment and resource allocation.

Importance in Different Risk Populations:

High-risk patients often show more substantial absolute benefits from treatments. In lower-risk patients, the ARR might be smaller, leading to a larger NNT, which influences cost-effectiveness and decisions about resource allocation.

Cost-Effectiveness: Assessing the economic viability of semaglutide involves comparing the cost of the drug against the healthcare savings from prevented CVD events. While semaglutide shows potential in CVD prevention, its cost-effectiveness is a significant factor, particularly for healthcare systems with limited budgets. Thorough health economics studies are needed to weigh the drug’s cost against the potential savings from prevented CVD events. This will help determine if the benefits justify the expense, especially for widespread use.

Hence, health economics studies are essential to determine if the benefits justify the expense, particularly in public health systems with budget constraints.

Side Effects and Safety Profile: Understanding the adverse effects of semaglutide is critical. Long-term safety data, as well as information on the severity and frequency of side effects, must be evaluated. Balancing the benefits of CVD risk reduction against potential harms from side effects is necessary for informed decision-making.

Semaglutide’s long-term safety profile is still under investigation. While initial studies are promising, continued monitoring is crucial to identify any potential side effects or risks associated with prolonged use. Balancing the benefits of CVD risk reduction against potential harms is essential for responsible decision-making.

The Road Ahead: Research and Evidence

To fully harness the potential of semaglutide in CVD management, we need more comprehensive data. This includes detailed reporting of ARR in diverse patient populations, robust cost-effectiveness analyses in various healthcare settings, and long-term studies to monitor safety and efficacy. While semaglutide shows promise in the treatment of CVD, more comprehensive data is required to fully understand its impact, particularly in areas such as the ARR in different patient populations (such as those at low risk of CVD)to calculate precise NNT values.

Conclusion: Semaglutide shows promise as a valuable tool in the fight against cardiovascular disease. However, it is essential to maintain a critical eye. By focusing on metrics such as absolute risk reduction, cost-effectiveness, and long-term safety data, we can make informed decisions that prioritise patient well-being and responsible resource allocation. As research continues, we will gain a clearer understanding of semaglutide’s role in CVD prevention and treatment, paving the way for its appropriate use by healthcare systems across the world.

Preserving the Essence of NHS Primary Care

In some parts of England, proposals are emerging to divide NHS primary care services into separate pathways for acute, same-day care and long-term, complex care. While this approach aims to manage the growing workload in general practice, it raises significant concerns about potential negative impacts on patient care and NHS efficiency. We discuss the implications of these proposals in an article published in the British Medical Journal.

The Holistic Strength of General Practice

One of the key strengths of general practice lies in its holistic approach, where GPs offer continuous and comprehensive care. This continuity allows GPs to maintain a thorough understanding of a patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and psychological aspects, leading to effective and cost-efficient care. Fragmenting services by separating acute and long-term care threatens this holistic approach and can undermine the management of chronic conditions, which often include acute episodes linked to ongoing health issues.

Risks of Fragmentation

Missed Diagnoses: Acute symptoms can sometimes signal more severe underlying conditions. For instance, a chronic cough could indicate serious diseases like lung cancer or tuberculosis. Fragmented services reduce opportunities for comprehensive health evaluations, increasing the risk of missed diagnoses and neglecting critical health promotion activities.

Increased Costs and Confusion: Splitting primary care services could lead to higher healthcare costs due to duplicated services and administrative overheads. Vulnerable groups, such as older adults and non-native English speakers, may find the fragmented system confusing, further hindering their access to appropriate care.

Impact on GP Training: The separation of services could negatively affect the education of GP registrars and ongoing professional development. Exposure to both acute and complex cases is essential for developing well-rounded, competent GPs. Limited supervision in “acute care hubs” may not provide the diverse learning experiences necessary for effective training.

Advocating for Integrated Care

To maintain the effectiveness and efficiency of primary care, it’s essential to focus on integrated care models rather than fragmented services. Integrated care ensures that both acute and long-term health needs are addressed within a cohesive system, leading to better health outcomes and more efficient resource use.

Multidisciplinary Teams: Incorporating multidisciplinary team members such as district nurses, therapists, social workers, pharmacists, care coordinators, and social prescribers can help address a full spectrum of health issues, fostering stronger patient-provider relationships and improving patient satisfaction.

Reducing Administrative Burden: Training non-clinical staff to handle administrative tasks can free up GPs to focus more on patient care. Additionally, improving the integration of health records across primary and secondary care can reduce data entry duplication and enhance record accuracy.


To preserve the essence of primary care and its patient-centred approach, efforts should be directed towards strengthening integrated care models, enhancing general practice capacity, and improving service efficiency. By avoiding the pitfalls of fragmented services, we can ensure that primary care continues to meet the evolving health needs of the population without compromising quality, cost, or continuity of NHS care.

Study Reveals Critical Gaps in Catch-Up Vaccinations Among UK Migrants

In our study published in the journal BMC Medicine, we report significant vulnerabilities to infectious diseases among UK migrants due to under-vaccination for diseases preventable through routine immunisations – such as measles, mumps, rubella, and polio. Our mixed-methods study, conducted between May 2021 and September 2022 across several London-based general practices, sheds light on the urgent need for improved healthcare strategies that ensure migrants receive necessary catch-up vaccinations.


Migrants in the UK and Europe are often at increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) due to incomplete childhood vaccinations and systemic marginalisation from health services. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated these disparities, highlighting the critical gaps in vaccination coverage among adult and adolescent migrants. The study aimed to quantify these vaccination gaps and explore new strategies to improve vaccination uptake through better integration into primary care systems.

Study Insights

The “Vacc on Track” study involved 57 migrants from 18 countries, revealing a troubling landscape of under-vaccination:

  • 86% of the participants needed catch-up vaccinations for MMR.
  • 88% required catch-up for tetanus, diphtheria, and polio (Td/IPV).
  • Despite high referrals for catch-up vaccinations (93%), completion rates were dismally low, with only 12% completing the Td/IPV series and 64% completing the MMR.

Barriers and Facilitators

We identified numerous barriers to effective vaccination, including:

  • Lack of systematic approaches to catch-up vaccination upon migrants’ arrival.
  • Primary care staff’s limited awareness and implementation of vaccination guidelines.
  • Structural challenges such as limited appointment availability and follow-up.

Conversely, potential facilitators highlighted the importance of staff champions and community-based approaches to improve vaccination uptake. These insights suggest that primary care can play a pivotal role in reducing health inequalities by adopting more culturally competent and accessible vaccination strategies.


The study underscores a pressing public health issue: the need to better integrate catch-up vaccinations within primary care to protect vulnerable populations against VPDs. By strengthening existing pathways and enhancing staff training and resources, healthcare systems can make significant strides toward ensuring that all community members, regardless of their origin, are protected against preventable diseases.

Moving Forward

our findings emphasise the need for further research and larger trials to refine and implement effective strategies that ensure equitable healthcare access. As the UK continues to navigate the challenges posed by migration and health disparities, such studies are essential for informing policy and practice, aiming for a healthier, more inclusive society. This research not only highlights the gaps but also charts a course for future action, aiming to transform insights into impactful health interventions.

Assigning disease clusters to people with multiple long-term conditions

Our new study in the Journal of Multimorbidity and Comorbidity sheds light on the challenges of assigning disease clusters to people with multiple long-term conditions

In the world of healthcare, understanding how to manage and treat multiple long-term conditions (MLTC) is a significant challenge. our explores the effectiveness of different strategies for assigning disease clusters to people with MLTCs, aiming to improve our understanding of health outcomes.

The study, a cohort analysis using primary care electronic health records from England, involved a massive sample of over 6.2 million patients. It evaluated the performance of seven different strategies for grouping diseases into clusters, with the aim of predicting mortality, emergency department attendances, and hospital admissions.

What are Disease Clusters?

Disease clusters are groups of conditions that frequently occur together, which may represent underlying shared causes or risk factors. By identifying these clusters, researchers hope to tailor preventive and therapeutic strategies more effectively.

Findings from the Study

We found that while assigning patients to disease clusters could provide a structured way to understand MLTCs, none of the strategies were particularly effective at predicting health-related outcomes when compared to considering each disease individually. Specifically, the method that counted the number of conditions within each cluster performed the best among the cluster-based strategies, but still fell short compared to a disease-specific approach.

This highlights a critical limitation: diseases within the same cluster may not consistently relate to health outcomes, suggesting that the clusters, while useful for some research applications, might not be reliable for predicting patient outcomes.

Implications for Healthcare

The study underscores the complexity of treating individuals with MLTCs. It suggests that while clustering diseases can help in understanding some aspects of multimorbidity, relying solely on these clusters to predict health outcomes might oversimplify the nuances of individual patient conditions.

For healthcare providers and policymakers, these findings emphasize the need for personalized treatment plans that consider the unique combination of diseases each patient has, rather than applying broad cluster-based approaches.

Future Directions

The researchers recommend further exploration into how disease clusters can be used in conjunction with individual disease information to improve health outcome predictions and treatment strategies. This might include integrating machine learning techniques that can handle large datasets and complex variable interactions more effectively.


This study provides valuable insights into the challenges and limitations of using disease clusters as a tool for managing MLTCs. It calls for a more nuanced approach that balances the simplicity of clustering with the complexity of individual patient profiles, ensuring that treatment strategies are both scientifically sound and tailored to meet individual needs.

For healthcare systems, continuing to invest in research that refines our understanding of MLTCs will be crucial for developing more effective and personalized approaches to treatment and care management in the future.