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Patients’ perspectives on polypharmacy are highly personal, systematic review concludes

Research in BMJ Open highlights that patients taking multiple medicines are a heterogenous group, with differing information needs and responses to information.

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Many patients with polypharmacy find medicines adherence difficult, so good communication between patients and physicians is vital, the researchers said

Healthcare professionals should actively seek to understand individual patients’ perspectives on polypharmacy and its associated challenges, research in BMJ Open has concluded[1].

Researchers conducted a systematic review of 13 qualitative studies relating to the experiences of patients with multimorbidity and polypharmacy. Polypharmacy was defined as taking four or more medicines.

The researchers grouped their findings into five main themes relating to medicines information needs, adherence, decision-making, the relationship between healthcare professionals and patients, and patients’ self- perception.

They concluded that patients taking multiple medicines were a heterogenous group, with differing information needs and responses to information. They also observed that patients were aware of the importance of taking their medicines but found medicines adherence difficult, and that physical function and a stable regimen were central priorities for patients.

The researchers found that multiple factors affected communication between patients and physicians, and these factors could prevent patients from disclosing important information.

“It is … essential that healthcare professionals actively solicit individual patients’ perspectives on challenges related to polypharmacy,” the researchers concluded.

“We recommend that healthcare professionals upscale communicative efforts and involvement of patients’ social network on an individualised basis to facilitate shared decision-making and treatment adherence.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208530

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