Professor Anna-Maija Tolppanen leads a multidisciplinary research group, Real-World Evidence team, at the School of Pharmacy, University of Eastern Finland. Her group develops, validates and implements methods and approaches for evaluating effectiveness and safety of treatments by using real-world data. Although the research is focused on Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, they are also involved in research on other conditions, for example pelvic organ prolapse surgery and coronary artery disease.
“The MEDication use and Alzheimer’s disease (MEDALZ) study has brought novel information on drug use, morbidity, and risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. This nationwide study, based on the Finnish healthcare registers, has yielded approximately 100 original publications”, says Anna-Maija. Another example is ongoing study on ambient air pollution as a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease. “We collaborate with Dr. Otto Hänninen’s group from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare to investigate whether ambient air pollution is related to risk of Parkinson’s disease by using nationwide registers. We can obtain quite long exposure assessment period from the national registers, which also enables us to illustrate methodological challenges in risk factor studies on neurodegenerative diseases. This is also one of our research topics”, explains Anna-Maija.
“My background is in epidemiology and data analytics, so I always work in close collaboration with clinicians. Their experience in how the patients are treated, how the disease manifests, is of utmost importance in this kind of research”, says Anna-Maija. As the number of students in the programs offered by the School of Pharmacy is high, supervision of MSc theses is a natural way to combine teaching and research. For example, 15 of the original scientific articles from the MEDALZ study were in fact done by Bachelor of Medicine or Master’s degree students.
Anna-Maija belongs to several national and international collaboration networks. For example, she is a partner in a European consortium that aims to support the utilization of real-world data in regulatory decision making. “In addition, Neurocenter Finland and the regional Kuopio Brain & Mind network offer a multidisciplinary forum that also enables better engagement of patients and study participants in research. We hope that this aspect can be better incorporated to our research in the future.”
Real-World Evidence Research Group: https://uefconnect.uef.fi/en/group/real-world-evidence-team/
MEDALZ (MEDICATION use and Alzheimer’s disease) data: https://uefconnect.uef.fi/en/group/medalz/
Kuopio Brain & Mind is part of a nation-wide Neurocenter Finland researcher network. For more information, please visit www.neurocenterfinland.fi