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Dr Frank Moriarty, Senior Lecturer at RCSI School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has received a €2.4m Career Development Award from Wellcome to advance new methods to research deprescribing – the planned process of reducing or stopping medicines that may no longer be of benefit or may be causing harm.

Improvements in healthcare mean people are living longer, and as they get older, people are often prescribed increasing numbers of medicines to prevent and manage disease. This increase in the number of medicines can lead to a higher risk of medicine-related adverse effects. It is therefore important to develop robust approaches to identify medicines that might no longer be needed or could be contributing to medicine-related harm that can be safely stopped or deprescribed.

The research funded in this award will harness the large amounts of information already collected as part of routine healthcare, such as GP and hospital visits. New methods from pharmacoepidemiology will be used to analyse these datasets, to improve our understanding of deprescribing practices. As the focus of healthcare shifts
to more personalised medicine and patient- centered approaches, research in this area will inform the decisions of patients and their healthcare professionals and support optimal treatment. Ultimately, this will help people age better with the right medicines for them.

In addition, as part of the project, which will be known as DIAMOND (Developing Innovative Analytical Methods for research ON Deprescribing), a tool will be developed to identify patients most at risk of side effects from antidepressant medicines. Given people can respond very differently to these medicines, this will help support the monitoring and review of antidepressants to promote the best outcomes for patients with mental health conditions.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Moriarty said: “The support from this award will enable me to build a team to pave the way for high-quality deprescribing research and clinical practice. The evidence we hope to generate through innovative, data-driven approaches will improve the quality of healthcare to benefit population health. We are embedding open science in this project, by sharing our methods and tools for other researchers to use in future studies and maximise our impact.”

The grant award will run over eight years, starting next year. As well as supporting research efforts and access to datasets, it will also facilitate the recruitment, training and development of new researchers.

“I would like to congratulate Dr Moriarty on this prestigious funding and acknowledge the support of Wellcome
for awarding RCSI our first Career Development Award. This is an important milestone which recognises our dedication to advancing cutting-edge research and fostering talented scientists,” said Professor Fergal O’Brien, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation at RCSI.

“I look forward to seeing how this project will apply big data to a space where it has the exciting potential not only to improve medical practices but also to positively impact the lives of patients.”

Wellcome’s Career Development Awards are highly competitive grants supporting mid-career researchers’ career progression in biomedical science, health, and related fields. This award further enriches the RCSI research landscape, signifying the university’s continued commitment to excellence in scientific discovery and complementing previous successes in other Wellcome grant programmes.

On this project, RCSI will collaborate with researchers from University College Cork, University College London, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of British Columbia and Complutense University of Madrid.

Dr Sophie Hawkesworth, Senior Research Manager in Discovery Research at Wellcome, said: “I’m delighted that Wellcome are supporting this exciting award in such an important research area. Our Discovery Research schemes are designed to enable a really broad range of research questions that have the potential to transform our understanding of health and disease.

“This award is a great example of the research we are aiming to support that will bring new knowledge and new research tools to a really important and understudied area. I will be following the progress of the project with interest.”