Europe’s population is ageing fast, with the number of over 65s set to rise from over 85 million in 2008 to 151 million in 2060. Many of these people will become frail as they age; a common feature of frailty is a loss of muscle mass and strength (known as sarcopenia), and this makes those affected more vulnerable to falls and places them at greater risk of becoming disabled. The frail are also more likely to be hospitalised or to require long-term care in a nursing home. Frailty therefore has a huge impact on older people's quality of life and represents a significant burden for health and social care systems. Frailty is not uncommon – the SHARE (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe) study revealed that 17% of the over 65s in Europe are frail while 42% are ‘pre-frail’. Yet despite its prevalence and its impact on both quality of life and healthcare systems, there is no formal, widely-accepted definition of frailty and no treatment to prevent its onset and progression.
The SPRINTT project brings together major pharmaceutical companies, leading universities and hospitals, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the overall goal of improving frailty care and prevention in Europe.
The first goal of the project is to define the specific characteristics of frailty that can be easily applied in healthcare settings. This will make possible to precisely identify people affected by frailty. At the core of SPRINTT project is a large clinical trial to assess treatment options designed to prevent the frail from becoming disabled and losing their mobility. The trial, which will involve around 1 500 patients from across Europe, will randomly allocate participants to one of two groups. The first group will receive a multi-component intervention including physical activity and nutritional advice and supplements as well as innovative technologies. Among other things, these innovative technologies will support efforts to coach participants on physical activity and diet, and help to monitor participants’ health and frailty (for example by logging falls or near-falls). The other group will take part in a general health education programme. All participants will be followed up for two years.
The project team will also work closely with medicines regulators to ensure its findings can be rapidly implemented in clinical practice and applied to improve the development of innovative drugs for frailty.
Ultimately, the outcomes of the SPRINTT project should result in improved treatment options and a better quality of life for the frail. This will also benefit health and social care systems. More broadly, SPRINTT’s output will demonstrate how health research and healthcare systems can be adapted to the needs of older people with long-term health problems.
Pharmaceutical industries and SMEs will also benefit from the project that will establish sound methodologies for developing innovative treatments for frailty and sarcopenia.