Published on 30 November 2016
A North East-led study to analyse patients and health professionals’ attitudes towards new drugs that prevent blood clots which can lead to strokes, has received the largest share of an annual pharmacy research grant.
The public health project, a collaboration between the University of Sunderland and City Hospitals Sunderland (CHS), and is one of 13 national projects selected by Pharmacy Research UK (PRUK), to be part of its largest ever annual funding award of nearly £200k to support pharmacy research.
These personal awards are designed to support those new to research as well as pharmacists leading their first projects, fulfilling one of PRUK’s charitable objectives of developing the pharmacy research leaders of the future.
At Sunderland, the £30,314 bursary will support a qualitative study by CHS clinical pharmacist Kimberley Stewart, as part of her Master’s Degree in Public Health, assessing attitudes and perceptions towards anticoagulants - medicines that help prevent blood clots, to reduce the chances of developing serious conditions such as strokes.
While warfarin has been the most commonly prescribed drug of choice for more than 60 years, patients require frequent blood tests and careful monitoring, with many other medications, herbal remedies and changes in diet affecting how well it works. However, new medicines NOACs (Novel Oral Anticoagulants) introduced over the past decade have proved effective in preventing strokes and require far less blood tests and monitoring to check they’re working. Despite being approved for use by NICE, Kimberley says: "The uptake of NOACS in the UK has been slow and patchy and we lag behind other countries.
"That’s why we are conducting this research, to find out what are both the patients’ and health professionals’ attitudes towards anticoagulants. We have some anecdotal evidence that suggests factors such as a shorter life span of the NOACs and lack of an antidote should a major bleed occur, prevent their wider use. There’s also a perception that regular tests with warfarin ensure the patient is taking the drug, whereas with NOACs, the lack of regular tests leads to doctors’ fears that there’s a risk the patient may not take it regularly."
Kimberley, a University of Sunderland pharmacy graduate (2009), added: "We are delighted to receive this PRUK grant and we hope our results will lead to developing strategies which make prescribing NOACs easier for health professionals, make the best use of new medication, which in turn leads to a better use of resources within the NHS."
The results of the study, supervised by Scott Wilkes, Professor of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Sunderland, are expected to be completed next year.
Prof Scott Wilkes said: "Kimberley’s success with the PRUK award follows on nicely from her Health Education North Clinical Academic Training Internship. She is one of a growing number of clinical academic pharmacists at the University of Sunderland who have secured competitive externally peer reviewed grants in the last two years. "The project is topical and very important and this award will also enable her to develop her clinical academic career. We’re absolutely delighted to have Kimberley in the department."
David Miller, Chief Pharmacist City Hospitals Sunderland, commented: "It is important for pharmacy as a patient facing profession that we now accelerate the development of practitioners, who have both a clinical and academic expertise. The PRUK bursary provides that support and the research Kim is undertaking is patient focused and should lead to further improvements in service delivery."
He added "Kim is one of a number of our clinical practitioners who have an increasing research focus. This has come about as a direct result of the Trust’s partnership with the University of Sunderland, one that embraces a number of clinical professionals."
Dr Rachel Joynes, Trust Director at PRUK, said, "We are delighted to be able to fund these awards across the field of pharmacy research. The breadth and quality of applications this year was outstanding and this has been reflected in the record amount that we have been able to award. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects and the positive impact that they will have on pharmacy services and patient care."
These funding awards are either given in the form of research training bursaries or as personal research awards; PRUK would like to thank the Leverhulme Trade Charities Trust for their funding which has enabled many of these awards.