Future Healthcare
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In the run up to the election there was a high level of focus on the NHS. The UK’s free healthcare service has certainly been stretched by increasingly tighter budgets, staff shortages and a significant increase in the number of patients. Looking forward, it seems that a completely new approach to healthcare is needed to ensure that those who most need medical help can access it.

Whilst tackling the pay, working conditions and morale of NHS staff will present a considerable challenge for the Government and NHS managers, there are changes in the field of medicine which could improve the effectiveness of healthcare in the future.

Pharmaceutical research and development is increasingly focused on identifying the specific make up that means one person is at greater risk of developing a disease than another. Studies are also leading to the identification of those individuals which are more likely to be receptive to specific types of treatment.

The research and development allows more people to be tested and prescribed with preventative medication prior to serious symptoms developing. This would improve people’s health, prevent suffering and reduce costs of long term care. In addition, people can be treated with medications which are most likely to have beneficial effects that lead to their recovery. This targeted approach saves people from receiving treatment and potential side effects which fail to work and leads to more efficient use of drugs, which again reduces costs.

Breast Cancer

One such example is the development of a new genetic test that can determine the risk of a woman developing breast cancer. Screening and other genetic tests are already available, but with an increased number of markers, this latest test has shown far greater levels of accuracy in the clinical trials of 65,000 women.

Not only can it identify risk prior to any symptom, it has also been shown to be especially effective in identifying specific types of breast cancer, such as Oestrogen Receptor Positive diseases. Hormonal treatments have proven to be effective with this particular group of diseases. This knowledge can support the administration of targeted treatments.

Pharmaceutical Research and Development

Pharmaceutical Research and Development is usually a long, drawn out and costly process, which is highly regulated to ensure patient safety. Laboratories across the globe undertake hundreds of tests every day in order to identify specific genes, antibodies and cells which could unlock the cause of the many viruses and diseases which can affect the human body.

They are also working on ways to supress or remove the viruses and harmful cells in order to develop effective medication. They also explore the most effective way to deliver the medication into the body, for example intravenously, in oral liquid or tablet form. It can take millions of unsuccessful tests before a breakthrough is made that meets all the stringent requirements and is suitable for clinical trials.

Extrusion and Spheronization

A range of laboratory equipment supports this work. These include equipment that supports extrusion and spheronization, a process that is widely used in the production of solid dose pharmaceuticals. In this process the active ingredient is mixed with an excipient to form a consistent paste. This paste is pushed through a mould to produce a uniform cross section, in a similar way to the production of spaghetti. This process is known as extrusion.

The strips are then cut into equally sized lengths, which are placed in a revolving drum. As the shapes hit against the wall of the drum, they form into balls, a process known as spheronization. These balls can be flattened into tablets, ready for packaging. Alternatively many smaller spheres can be placed inside a single capsule. For more information on this equipment visit the Caleva website.

Multi Centre Development

Another potential opportunity for healthcare is a multi-centre approach to research and development. With increased collaboration; the sharing of knowledge, resources and results it is possible to speed up the research and development process.

This type of approach is currently being adopted in the fight against Ebola. International institutions are working together, supported by Government investment to develop antibodies which could treat people who have developed Ebola. Over 10,000 people have already died in the past year from the virus, so a treatment is urgently required. If this same approach can be used to tackle more of the world’s diseases, less people would need to suffer.


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