(Photo: FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images).

NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) and partners have devised a system to identify patients who are being prescribed prednisolone due to health risk attached with the medication.

Prednisolone is a short course steroid, which can be crucial in treating respiratory illnesses.

However, recent studies revealed that prescribing too many short course steroids could cause adverse health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, mental health disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, and many others.

In 2020, more than 35,500 people were prescribed over three grams of prednisolone, considered a high dose.

Darren Curry, chief digital and data officer at NHSBSA, said a lot of work done by the organisation “is around patient safety and to provide the data and access to data which helps to improve patients’ lives.”

For the project, NHSBSA is working in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN).

Seema Gadhia, pharmacy lead at Oxford AHSN, said: “Being able to identify people on high cumulative doses of oral corticosteroids, and offer alternative treatment management, has the potential to significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of steroid related side effects.”

Grainne d’Ancona, consultant pharmacist and clinical champion for the programme said that oral corticosteroids have a role in managing airways disease, but they must not be mistaken for an inevitable consequence of asthma or COPD.

She said: “Facilitating early identification of those most in need of a review is a crucial step on this path.”

The new metric looks at patients in England who have been prescribed prednisolone tablets, as well as an asthma/COPD medication in the last 12 months. It calculates the total cumulative dose, in milligrams, for the whole period, allowing clinicians to identify anyone at risk.

At-risk patients may be suited to alternative therapies or clinical strategies.

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