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3 Key Medical News Stories: 18th April 2019

Statins

Welcome to this week’s medical news round up! In our latest edition, we bring you the healthcare topics that have been under the microscope over the past week, just in time for your med school applications. 

Joining us this week: statins, new technology and measles.

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Statins

Cholesterol-lowering drugs do not work well for half of those who are taking them.

Millions in the UK take statins in order to lower their ‘bad’ cholesterol, one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.

Recent research shows that statins have too little effect on cholesterol for half of patients taking them. Although the reason as to why some patients respond better than others is still unclear, experts suggest patients not taking the medication as prescribed or too low doses as an explanation.

Additionally, many other factors, namely smoking and diet, also contribute highly to cholesterol levels.

Experts recommend patients to continue to take statins as prescribed, as they are a proven treatment for lowering cholesterol and providing cardiovascular protection.

What can we learn from this?

Research surrounding statins is notoriously controversial. Statins are a proven treatment for high cholesterol levels, however many patients also experience unwanted side effects.

As high cholesterol is something we cannot see or feel, patients rarely feel the benefit of taking statins and possibly even feel worse due to the side effects.

This, combined with regular public skepticism of the effectiveness of statins, deters patients from taking their medication. This is a challenge faced by primary care, as statins reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which kills 150,000 people in the UK every year.

Question to think about: How important is evidence based practice in medicine?

Read: Depth and Breadth of Interest Questions

New Technology

New technology could help those with dementia stay in their homes.

New research at Imperial College London is working towards technology to keep people independent and safe in their own homes.

The technology, tailored for dementia patients, aims to prevent patients’ admission to hospitals. Sensors around the home detect changes in behavior that increase the risk of admission, including changes in walking pattern or increased body temperature.  They are able to monitor heart rate, brain activity and blood pressure.

The technology, small enough to fit in the ear, would be able to alert doctors and nurses of worrying changes, allowing early intervention and monitoring.

What can we learn from this?

A patient with dementia occupies one in four hospital beds, but 20% of these admissions are preventable. This new technology would allow intervention and prevention of crises that commonly lead to long hospital stays or residential care.

With 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK, set to rise to the millions by 2051, it is paramount that the healthcare system begins to adapt and deliver practical care for these patients.

Question to think about: what do you understand about the term ‘bed blocking’ and how do you think the issue should be addressed?

Read: NHS Hot Topics – Ageing Population

Measles

Measles cases triple globally in 2019.

The new hits headlines as the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the number of measles cases in the first three months of 2019 have tripled compared to that of 2018. Africa has witnessed the most dramatic rise of up to 700%.

Measles is a viral disease that is highly infectious and dangerous, leading to infections of the lungs and brain.

Worryingly, the true figures are likely to be higher, as only one in 10 cases globally are reported.

These outbreaks are preventable with vaccinations, but misinformation has led to a decrease in vaccinations and spikes of measles outbreaks.

What can we learn from this?

Both developed and developing countries are seeing a rise in measles cases. In developing countries, low vaccination rates originate from poverty and misinformation.

In developed countries, a rise in support for the anti-vax campaign on social media has seen people refusing to vaccinate their children despite having the opportunity to.

95% of the population has to be vaccinated for the prevention of outbreaks. The current global coverage of immunization is 85%.

Question to think about: Should vaccinations of children against common infections be compulsory?

Read: NHS Hot Topics Questions

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