Headline act: the top 10 news stories of 2021

As COVID-19 continues to dominate national news, our most widely read stories in 2021 have focused on treatments and prevention from the virus.
collage of vaccination being given vaccine vial weighing scales azithromycin tablets budesonide inhaler keith ridge

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of our most-viewed news stories in 2021 centred on the COVID-19 pandemic, looking in particular at trials of potential new treatments for hospitalised patients as well as for patients in the community.

Other popular news stories reported on the latest developments in ongoing campaign to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, including research supporting the co-administration of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, the roll out of booster jabs and the impact of the Delta variant on their efficacy.

However, The Pharmaceutical Journal did still cover many topics amid the frenzy of 2020’s pandemic-heavy coverage, ranging from fresh government proposals to remove free prescriptions for older people; to renewed workforce concerns as recruitment into general practice roles ramped up.

Here is a full run down of our most-read news stories from this year. If there are any issues that you would like us to turn our attention to in 2022, please get in touch at news.editor@rpharms.com

1. Azithromycin and doxycycline should not be used in the management of COVID-19, DHSC advises

The most read story of 2021 is our report on the Department of Health and Social Care’s advice to stop using azithromycin and doxycycline in the management of confirmed or suspected COVID-19. This followed the publication of trial data that showed neither treatment reduced hospitalisation or death compared to standard care.

2. Government proposes raising qualifying age for free NHS prescriptions to 66 years

In July, the government controversially proposed raising the upper age exemption for prescriptions in England to generate additional revenue for the NHS, leaving pharmacy leaders “genuinely stunned”.

3. Boots to administer COVID-19 booster jabs from 55 pharmacies

Immediately following the government’s announcement that it would begin offering COVID-19 booster vaccinations to eligible people from 20 September 2021, it was unclear how many pharmacies would be involved. Boots was the first multiple to provide a figure for the number of pharmacies offering the latest round of vaccinations.

4. Second dose of Pfizer and Oxford vaccines offer reduced protection against Delta variant of COVID-19, study suggests

After the Delta variant was designated a ‘variant of concern’ in May 2021, researchers began to question the efficacy of vaccines compared to the Alpha variant. This study showed that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine provided 79% protection against Delta, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered 60% protection.

5. Trial demonstrates efficacy of inhaled budesonide to treat COVID-19 in the community

This study suggested that inhaled budesonide should be considered for patients with COVID-19 who are at higher risk of complications in the community. However, further research has since led the government to advise against its use.

6. No increase in adverse effects after giving COVID-19 and flu vaccine together, data suggest

In an effort to reduce demand on the NHS over winter, researchers studied whether the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine could be administered at the same appointment. The preliminary trial results showed that this could be done as patients receiving both vaccines at the same time had similar immunity levels and side effect profiles to those receiving them at separate appointments.

7. Semaglutide effective for weight loss in non-diabetic adults, research suggests

A randomised control trial that included 1,961 non-diabetic, overweight or obese adults found that the type 2 diabetes mellitus drug led to a mean weight loss of 14.9% when taken alongside lifestyle interventions, compared with a mean weight loss of 2.4% in the placebo group.

8. Patients aged over 50 years to be offered free flu vaccine under expanded 2021–2022 programme

In March, the government announced that it would again be expanding eligibility for free flu vaccines to 50–64-year-olds during the 2021/2022 flu season. Eligibility was similarly expanded during the 2020/2021 flu season.

9. Recruitment of 3,000 pharmacists into general practice is ‘causing challenges’, admits NHS pharmacy chief

Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, acknowledged wider concerns made by other pharmacy leaders that the “osmotic draw” of primary care networks is causing workforce challenges.

10. Antidepressant prescribing up 6% in last three months of 2020

Experts said the increase in prescribing follows “a large increase in anxiety disorders, including social anxiety and panic attacks, among those with no previous history of mental health difficulties”.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2021, Vol 307, No 7956;307(7956)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.121262

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