Royal Pharmaceutical Society draws focus onto polypharmacy

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has released a report entitled Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right. Polypharmacy is the situation, familiar to many, where a patient receives multiple medicines during the same period of time. It is common to associate polypharmacy with the elderly, but it can affect anyone with long-term conditions. The report highlights four areas in which polypharmacy causes problems:

  • “The prescribing of medicines that are no longer clinically indicated or appropriate or optimised for that person
  • Where the benefit of a particular medicine or medicines does not outweigh the harm
  • Where the combination of multiple medicines has the potential to or is actually causing harm to the person, and
  • Where the practicalities of using the medicines prescribed to a person have become unmanageable or are causing harm or distress”

These risks are growing in our society, so the RPS has proposed several recommendations to tackle the problem. A major recommendation is for increased use of Structured Medicines Reviews so that clinicians, patients and pharmacists can have confidence that the right medicines are being used at the right time in a patient’s treatment. NICE has previously defined these reviews as:

“a critical examination of a person’s medicines with the objective of reaching an agreement with the person about treatment, optimising the impact of medicines, minimising the number of medication‑related problems and reducing waste”

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Published 8. February 2019 in News, News UK