Life - Articles - IFoA Longevity Bulletin considers pharmacological progress

Pharmacology has been one of the greatest contributors to the longevity improvements of the 20th century. The latest Longevity Bulletin from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, ‘The pharmacology issue’, asserts that the pharmacological revolution of the last 100 years has brought untold benefit, improving quality of life as well as extending it.

 But importantly, the bulletin also looks at some of the unintended issues that have emerged from these pharmacological developments that are more problematic and that are only now starting to be fully understood; these include the effects of polypharmacy, the opioid epidemics in the US and UK, and the mass prescribing of statins and whether these have played a part in the increased incidence of diabetes.

 Although the content in this bulletin predates the Covid-19 crisis, epidemiology and pharmacology have worked hand-in-hand during the crisis. The former has helped identify the spread of infection and its mortality impact while the latter has offered tests and continues to work towards a vaccine. The two are closely interlinked and as the world continues to battle the pandemic, the themes in this bulletin are both pertinent and timely.

 Matthew Edwards, Editor of the IFoA Longevity Bulletin, said: “This bulletin sheds light on the roles pharmacology and epidemiology play in the field of modern medicine. The benefits of both are well documented and have become especially important this year as scientists and health professionals grapple with the spread and effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. But both of these fields also have their pitfalls, and these must be acknowledged and understood if we are to learn from past mistakes.

 “There is no magic bullet for health and longevity and progress is always accompanied by challenges. We believe the range of topics covered in the bulletin provide a helpful overview of some of these challenges for pharmacology and epidemiology, and hence of what still needs to be addressed.”

 IFoA President Tan Suee Chieh, said: “The IFoA’s Longevity Bulletins over the years have provided a better understanding of the drivers behind mortality, morbidity and longevity. The current coronavirus pandemic has drawn attention to how much remains uncertain and uncontrollable. It highlights the importance of applying sound judgement when data are incomplete and the problem too complex to fully model and quantify.

 “As actuaries, we can apply judgement and analysis in a rapidly changing environment. As we work alongside other professions, governments and organisations, drawing on a range of different mindsets to find a pathway through the crisis, the articles in this Longevity Bulletin serve as a timely reminder of the power of epidemiology and pharmacology to find a solution – although that path will never be risk-free.”

 The IFoA’s first Longevity Bulletin was issued in 2011, and was created as an overview of longevity trends. ‘The pharmacology issue’ will be the twelfth in the Bulletin series.

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