In the news

University of Sunderland researchers become first ever UK recipients of a national pharmacy grant

30 Oct 2014

A team from the University of Sunderland have become the recipients of a national pharmacy research grant, the first of its kind to be awarded in the UK.

In association with the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association (UKCPA) and Pharmacy Research UK, the Clinical Pharmacy Research Grant will fund a 12-month project to explore the use of unlicensed medicines within the NHS. These medicines, though not considered dangerous, are often untested and can be expensive.

The research team will review current published literature along with guidance and protocols around unlicensed medicines. They will also conduct one-to-one interviews with prescribers, pharmacists and patients.

This information will then be reported back to participants via two focus groups, one for patients and the other for healthcare professionals. It is hoped the results will help to inform the education of professionals, and enable patients to be better notified.

The University of Sunderland research team is comprised of Professor Scott Wilkes, Professor of General Practice and Primary Care; Dr Lyn Brierley-Jones, Research Fellow; Mrs Lindsay Parkin, Academic Practitioner with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust; and Principal Investigator Ms Gemma Donovan, Academic Practitioner with Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group.

Gemma Donovan said: “The team is very excited about starting the project. Use of unlicensed medicines is an issue which affects pharmacists across all sectors of the profession, as well as patients and the wider multidisciplinary team.

“This study will be an important step towards understanding how professionals and patients use unlicensed medicines and will add to the debate on the place of unlicensed medicines within the NHS.”

Normally pharmaceutical companies are liable for any adverse reactions caused by the products they produce, however in the case of unlicensed medicines it is the prescriber, such as the GP, though it is often the pharmacist who will ultimately source the product.

Currently there is little evidence surrounding unlicensed medicines but data does show that they are often more expensive. It is as yet unclear how regulated their use is and how informed patients are when they are prescribed them.

Mark Borthwick, Chair of UKCPA, said: “The UKCPA is proud to support young researchers and thereby do its bit to develop the research capacity in pharmacy. Gemma Donovan and co-workers have produced a great bid that was well thought out and well-articulated.”

Professor Anthony Smith, Chair of the Pharmacy Research UK Board of Trustees said: “As part of Pharmacy Research UK’s aspiration to develop new partners we embarked on this co-funded grant scheme with our colleagues from UKCPA, and I’m pleased we were able to support such a worthy recipient as Gemma Donovan in our first year.”

For more information on the University of Sunderland's research projects click here.