Lecturer clinches early career award for outstanding work in pharmacy

Posted by: Jamie Sharp - Posted on:

Dr Sion Scott, a lecturer in behavioural medicine and lead postgraduate tutor at the University of Leicester, is the winner of the ‘Outstanding Pharmacy Early-Career Researcher Award’ (OPERA) 2024. 

The award, which is granted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and The Pharmaceutical Journal, recognises early-career researchers from across pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences who demonstrate potential to achieve world-leading status. Dr Scott was selected from five shortlisted nominees for his research using behavioural science to facilitate the routine proactive deprescribing of medicines where the risks outweigh their benefits. 

An intervention he developed during his PhD is now being trialled as part of the ‘Comprehensive Geriatrician-led Medication Review’ (CHARMER) research project, which involves 22,000 patients in 24 hospitals across England, for which he is co-investigator and programme manager. 

Dr Scott has also developed behaviour change interventions that are already influencing government policy and being adopted nationally, with recommendations from his deprescribing research embedded in the government’s response to the 2021 National Overprescribing Review

His many achievements also include the co-development of the Medicine Acceptability Questionnaire (MAQ), which is now being used in phase III studies by pharmaceutical companies to evaluate their new medicines. 

In addition, he has also applied behavioural science to establish the determinants required for prescribers and patients to switch to liquid formulations of medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease where swallowing difficulties are experienced. This research also identified opportunities to improve disease control through microdose changes, with Scott’s recommendations prompting industry to develop new microdosing devices. 

The impact of Dr Scott’s research extends beyond the UK. An implementation framework for deprescribing interventions in hospitals has been cited more than 60 times, with a group in Switzerland using it to design their own hospital deprescribing intervention and another in Australia adapting it for the primary care system. In 2022, he also helped convene the first international deprescribing conference in Kolding, Denmark, which drew attendees from across the globe and is scheduled to convene again later in 2024 in France. 

He said: “I am delighted to have been recognised by my professional body, the RPS, for the contribution that my research is making to the advancement of the science of medicines and clinical pharmacy. The 2024 ‘OPERA’ prize recognises the importance of applying behavioural science to address medicines optimisation challenges and is a culmination of a portfolio of collaborative projects both here in the UK and internationally.” 

Judging panel member Amira Guirguis, MPharm programme director at Swansea University Medical School and chair of the RPS Science and Research Committee, said: “We are thrilled to commend Sion Scott as the winner of OPERA. This prestigious award celebrates his remarkable contributions to the advancement of the science of medicines and clinical pharmacy. 

“Sion’s research has had a profound impact on the field of pharmacy, particularly through the development of recommendations for the NHS implementation strategy for an AI-powered medicines sourcing platform and contributions to the National Overprescribing Review. His work on deprescribing policy has been embedded in national and regional NHS responses, demonstrating the translational and applicable nature of his research.”

Professor David Wright, Head of the School of Healthcare at the University of Leicester, added: “I am absolutely delighted for Sion. Pharmacy is a very research focused profession and to win this award is incredibly impressive, although it is nothing less than Sion deserves. Since he joined academia he has gone from strength to strength. building an incredibly impressive CV over a very short period of time.”