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16 November 2018

Professor Libby RougheadBack in 2004 when UniSA first became involved in a research project with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) to identify how we could deliver a system for safer and more appropriate use of medicines for ageing veterans, they could not have predicted where the research would lead. 

Fifteen years on, the broader consortium led by UniSA – Veterans’ Medication Advice and Therapeutic Education Service (MATES) – is delivering data-driven, best-practice advice to 33,000 GPs and supporting more than 300,000 veterans to receive the best possible information on medications and their use. 

In a special Enterprising Research talk, Director of UniSA’s Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre (QUMPRC), Professor Libby Roughead will explore how strong industry partnerships and a person-centred approach have underpinned one of the most successful national efforts to ensure that a range of medications are being used to deliver the best possible health outcomes.

The free talk will be held in the Allan Scott Auditorium, at UniSA’s City West campus on Tuesday 20 November from 6pm to 7.15pm.

Prof Roughead says the opportunity to work with big relevant data to unpack how particular conditions are being managed across the health system and what role medications play in that mix, has been both fascinating and rewarding. 

“We have focussed on specific conditions or diseases where we can make a difference and looked at the role of medicines in their treatment or the role of services and care planning,” Prof Roughead says. 

“Using the incredible datasets available from the DVA, including 15 years of historical health data, we have been able to evaluate treatments and treatment approaches, identify problems with medications or combinations of medications and support evidence-based education for doctors and health practitioners.”  

Examples of some of the significant work done through the research industry partnership include work done to detect and manage osteoporosis and prevent falls and fractures. 

The research team uncovered that the rate of testing for bone mineral density for women and men over 80 years was very low and that only two percent of men and 10 per cent of women were on medication for osteoporosis, yet it was understood that up to 50 percent of this group may have the condition.

The research showed that even in patients who had already been admitted to hospital with a fracture from a fall, only about one in five were taking medicines for osteoporosis and about 84 per cent were on medications that increased the risk of falls including antidepressants. 

“Our work with our partners to inform both veterans and medical and health workers, brought about a 40 per cent increase in men using protective osteoporosis medicines and a similar uptake from the vulnerable women targeted. 

“Overall the research showed about 80 to 150 fractures were avoided in our target group.” 

Prof Roughead says the comprehensive database held by DVA provides an example of how whole of healthcare information can be used for knowledge generation. 

“Our work with DVA has helped to forge new collaborations to broaden the focus of our work to improve health outcomes for other groups such as children using asthma medications, people needing hip replacements and new work we are doing internationally to look at the impacts of ADHD medications on children’s heart health,” she says. 

“Only about 50 per cent of the possible harms from medicines are known when they are first marketed. 

“Having access to very large datasets we are able to identify rare but serious problems more readily. 

“The work we are doing is a testament to the power of industry partnerships to make a real difference to health care practice on a global scale.” 


Media contact: Michèle Nardelli mobile 0418 823 673 email michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au


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