A group of leading doctors have suggested that the NHS must prepare to utilise medicines that prevent rather than merely treating disease.
The Academy of Medical Sciences believes that so-called personalised medicines which are tailored to the needs of individuals provide an excellent opportunity for the health service.
It is believed by the organisation that public health should head in this direction as a general trend.
Meanwhile, a debate is taking place on the subject, as critics of the opinion of the academy suggest that lifestyle focus should be the central facet in preventing illness.
The Academy states that scientific advances mean in future that there will be more opportunities to intervene with treatment before there are any symptoms.
Commenting on the issue, Professor Sir Robert Lechler, the new president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, stated his belief in the concept of prevention.
“I think it’s unarguable that prevention is better than cure, and if you wait until the patient presents with signs or symptoms of kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, very often most of the damage is done and can’t actually be recovered. So if it were possible to take steps while still in health to prevent or delay the onset of disease that seems to make very good sense.”
As the debate continues over this issue, discussion related to the use of statins has been particularly prominent.
The controversial medicine has been utilised for people at low risk of heart attack and stroke, yet critics suggest that statins have been used too frequently.
Professor Carl Heneghan from the Oxford University Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, believes that a focus on lifestyle factors will ultimately have a significantly more beneficial influence.
“What we have to do is look at clear lifestyle risk factors. The future of healthcare is a healthier lifestyle. Only in certain diseases such as cancer will we find personalised treatments are effective.”
Many analysts believe that over-medication is a major problem in the NHS, and it has been particularly noted that prescription drugs are the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
It is noted that it will only be possible to reduce demand on the NHS, and thus consequently improve care in the health service, by addressing a series of toxic lifestyle issues.
Nonetheless, the academy continues to call for closer collaboration between the NHS, academia and the pharmaceutical industry in the research and development of new drug solutions.