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RPS publishes guidance on the 'significant public health challenge' of polypharmacy

Guidance on polypharmacy from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society outlines best practice in problematic polypharmacy management for pharmacists, other healthcare professionals and patients.

Clare Howard, clinical lead for medicines optimisation at Wessex Academic Health Science Network

Source: Courtesy of Clare Howard

Clare Howard, clinical lead for medicines optimisation at Wessex Academic Health Science Network, led the steering group that produced the new Royal Pharmaceutical Society guidance on polypharmacy

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has published ‘Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right’ — new guidance for pharmacists and healthcare organisations involved with medicines. Describing polypharmacy as a “serious and significant public health challenge” as average lifespans increase, the guidance sets out the current scale of polypharmacy, with an emphasis on problematic polypharmacy.

The guidance, which has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing and the Association of Pharmacy Technicians, outlines best practice in problematic polypharmacy management for pharmacists, other healthcare professionals and patients themselves. Its recommendations include that all settings where medicines are used must have access to an appropriately qualified pharmacy professional, and that in any setting, systems must be established to flag patients who are taking ten or more medicines so that a medication review can be undertaken.

The benefits of good polypharmacy management, the guidance says, include improved adherence, better health and reduced medicines waste.

“The role of pharmacists in reviewing people’s medicines and ensuring they are on the right medicines for their conditions is becoming increasingly important,” said Ash Soni, president of the RPS. “The greater integration of pharmacists across primary care is an ambition of the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’. Closer working across the health professions is the way to help ensure patients only take the medicines they need and get the most benefit from them.”

‘Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right’ is the product of a steering group led by Clare Howard, clinical lead for medicines optimisation at Wessex Academic Health Science Network. “We have highlighted the importance of robust medicines data to help clinicians to identify those patients deemed to be at risk from harm from polypharmacy, and shown readers how those data are being used in Scotland, England and Wales,” said said.

But “just acknowledging the problem will not be enough”, Howard added.

“Patients and the public need to be much better engaged in the prescribing of medicines. Systems need to move away from a paternalistic approach of prescribing, with patients as a passive recipient, towards a much more person-centred approach with shared decision-making around medicines.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206078

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