Review finds link between prescription medicines and deprivation

Public Health England (PHE) has conducted its first ever Prescribed Medicines Review and has found a correlation between deprivation and reliance upon certain prescribed medicines.

The Review found higher incidences and duration of prescription medicine use in deprived areas, and has recommended a review of clinical guidelines and the sharing of prescribing data with doctors

The study focused on:

  • benzodiazepines (anxiety and insomnia)
  • Z-drugs (insomnia)
  • gabapentinoids (neuropathic pain)
  • opioids (chronic pain)
  • anti-depressants (depression)

Links to deprivation include:

  • prescribing rates and duration of prescription are higher in some of the most deprived areas of England
  • a similar pattern is also seen for the number of medicines co-prescribed (for example, at least 2 of the drugs)
  • for opioids and gabapentinoids, the prescribing rate in the most deprived quintile was 1.6 times the rate in the least deprived quintile
  • the co-prescribing rate in the most deprived quintile was 1.4 times higher than in the least deprived quintile (30% compared to 21%)

‘Dependence on prescription medicines linked to deprivation’, PHE, 10th September 2019

Director of Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco and Justice at PHE, Rosanna O’Connor, commented that:

“We know that GPs in some of the more deprived areas are under great pressure but, as this review highlights, more needs to be done to educate and support patients, as well as looking closely at prescribing practice, and what alternative treatments are available locally.”

The Review recommends that commissioners and doctors are given better access to data about prescribing behaviour and clinical guidelines, and that clinical guidelines should be updated for certain medications. Doctors should aim to consider the patient’s wider wellbeing when making prescribing decisions, to prescribe the lowest dose for the shortest possible time, and to conduct regular reviews.

The Chair of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, commented that:

“What [the report] also indicates is the severe lack of alternatives to drug therapies for many conditions – and where effective alternatives are known and exist, inadequate and unequal access to them across the country.

We also need more high-quality research into alternatives to drug therapies in general.”

Read more from the report here.

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Published 13. September 2019 in News, News UK