Australian researchers use big data to advance studies and optimise prescribing for those living with neurological and mental health conditions

Researchers from around the globe have joined forces to create the world’s first international ‘big data’ platform, designed specifically to tackle medication use and outcomes in people living with neurological and mental health disorders such as dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

Established by Monash University’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS) in partnership with the University of Hong Kong, the Neurological and Mental Health Global Epidemiology Network (NeuroGEN) holds the de-identified administrative data and medical records from an estimated 100 million people worldwide, opening up new opportunities for researchers to conduct large-scale studies and generate new evidence to inform and improve prescribing.

Brain

Data is analysed in respective countries using a common study protocol and no data sharing happens between countries.

Reducing the social and economic burden of neurological and mental health disorders is a global health priority, yet people with these disorders are often underrepresented in randomised controlled trials and real-world evidence is lacking. NeuroGEN aims to address significant evidence gaps in these under-researched fields by providing a platform to conduct multinational research and collaborations.

Lead author from CMUS and NeuroGEN convenor, Dr Jenni Ilomaki, says that the launch of NeuroGEN is an exciting step forward for research and medication management pertaining to neurological and mental health disorders.

“Optimising care and support through appropriate pharmacological and non-pharmacological management can significantly reduce burden in people with neurological and mental health disorders, yet until now we’ve had limited access to easily obtainable, specific and accessible data – particularly on this sort of scale.”

“NeuroGEN is the only global multi-database network that specifically addresses the management of neurological and mental health conditions, also with a broader focus on psychopharmacology. This will address significant evidence gaps in this under researched field, helping to inform more effective prescribing and improve the quality of life for families, healthcare systems and society,” said Dr Ilomaki.

The rapid increase in the availability of administrative and electronic medical record data has resulted in new potential for ‘big data’ research in medication safety and effectiveness. This comprises of data collected from hospitals, primary care medical practices and pharmacies.

NeuroGEN consists of academic members from Australia, China, Finland, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with access to corresponding health databases in their regions.

As there are considerable differences in national regulations and the application of ethical frameworks in different countries, each NeuroGEN partner works with the relevant data custodians and ethics committees to comply with the local legal and ethical requirements.

NeuroGEN evolved out of the PharmAlliance collaboration in pharmacoepidemiology between Monash University, University College London and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Initial PharmAlliance funding has been supplemented by subsequent grants from the Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund, Dementia Australia Research Foundation and Yulgilbar Foundation. For the full copy of the NeuroGEN description study, visit: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-020-00742-4

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Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

Email: kate.carthew@monash.edu / Mobile: +61 438 674814