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Polypharmacy: new guidance available

More medicine reviews needed

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has today published guidance on polypharmacy for pharmacists and all healthcare organisations involved with medicines.

Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right provides a summary of the scale and complexity of the issue of polypharmacy. It outlines how healthcare professionals, patients and carers can find solutions when polypharmacy causes problems for patients and points to useful resources that can help.

The guidance recommends that all healthcare organisations have systems in place to ensure people taking 10 or more medicines can be identified and highlighted as requiring a comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist.

The benefits of such reviews include:

•           A reduction in problematic polypharmacy

•           Improved health

•           Patients more likely to take their medicines

•           Fewer wasted medicines

RPS President Ash Soni said:

“As people live longer lives with complex and multiple conditions, they are prescribed an increasing number of medicines. Patients with a high pill burden, those taking high-risk medicines or who have complicated medicine regimes can find it difficult to cope.

“Their prescription often gets added to again when they need extra medical care and medicines often remain on the prescription that are no longer needed. This increases the risk of side effects and interactions between medicines and leads to poor health, a lower quality of life and costly unnecessary admissions to hospital.

“The role of pharmacists in reviewing people’s medicines and ensuring they are on the right medicines for their conditions is becoming increasingly important. The greater integration of pharmacists across primary care is an ambition of the NHS Long Term plan and the five-year funding announcement around the GP contract. Closer working across the health professions is the way to drive patient centred care and help ensure patients only take the medicines they need and get the most benefit from them.”

Read Polypharmacy: getting our medicines right, which is endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing, and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians.

A shorter version is available for pharmacy teams.

Ash also featured in this BBC Breakfast feature on medicines waste and the need for medicine reviews, and was interviewed by BBC regional radio stations about polypharmacy:

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