The Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Drug Safety Science at the University of Liverpool has launched a public guide book, to explain how greater understanding of drug side-effects could help tailor treatments to patients.
The guide, developed in collaboration with the charity, Sense About Science, illustrates that there is no drug without side effects, but researchers are working on solutions that involve better understanding of how they react with an individual’s genetic make-up.
Severe side-effects account for one in sixteen NHS hospital admissions and take up four per cent of hospital bed capacity. Researchers are now finding solutions that will prevent side-effects derailing the development of new drugs, and helping patients avoid severe problems from currently-available medicines.
Drugs are currently withdrawn from use if there are reports of severe side-effects. Although these are rare, if a drug is withdrawn because one person in 10,000 suffers, that means 9,999 people have to stop using a medicine that works.
By first identifying which rare drug side- effects can be predicted, researchers can develop tests that will tell doctors which patients can safely be given a drug.
Professor Kevin Park, director of the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science said: “Our research is increasing what we know about drug safety and helping us to give people better information about the risks associated with medicines.
“Improving our understanding of the mechanisms that cause serious adverse side-effects will lead to existing medicines being prescribed more safely and new drugs being developed more effectively. Through this guide we want to share with patients, GPs and other health professionals why drug safety science matters to everyone.”
David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science said: “This guide provides an insight into how UK academia and industry partners are tackling the problem of side effects. It’s important that we all understand that investment in this type of research plays such a significant role in minimising the risks presented by new drugs, as well as helping to get new drugs to the market and saving the NHS millions of pounds.
“This work has a global impact and I hope to see the MRC Centre for Drug Safety in Science continue to perform an important role in society for years to come.”
An electronic version of the guide is available to download at: www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/health-and-medicine.html
University of Liverpool
Foundation Building, Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L69 7ZB, United Kingdom