Tenth of prescriptions in England “inappropriate”

AN estimated 10 per cent of items dispensed in primary care are "overprescribed", with 15 per cent of people taking five or more medicines a day, according to a Government-commissioned review.

The review also reports that around one in five hospital admissions in over-65s and around 6.5 per cent of the total are caused by the adverse effects of medicines.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Dr Keith Ridge led the review which concluded that 10 per cent of the volume of prescription items dispensed through primary care in England are “either inappropriate for that patients’ circumstances and wishes, or could be better served with alternative treatments”.

The review determined that overprescribing describes a situation where "people are given medicines they do not need or want, or where potential harm outweighs the benefit of the medication".

"It can happen when a better alternative is available but not prescribed, the medicine is appropriate for a condition but not the individual patient, a condition changes and the medicine is no longer appropriate, or the patient no longer needs the medicine but continues to be prescribed it."

The review recommends the appointment of a new National Clinical Director for Prescribing to lead a three-year programme including research and training to help enable effective prescribing. It calls for an improved evidence base for safely withdrawing inappropriate medication (deprescribing), and updated clinical guidance to support more patient-centred care.

The report also concludes that reducing overprescribing will help the NHS fulfil its commitment to become carbon net zero, as the production and use of some medicines can generate significant greenhouse gas emissions – with "25 per cent of the NHS carbon footprint is as a result of medicines".

Health Minister Lord Syed Kamall said: "This vital review is a significant step forward which will benefit patients across the country, and we will help ensure busy primary care teams are supported with improved systems and resources.

"Whether it’s helping to change a culture of demand for medicines that are not needed, providing better alternatives and preventing ill-health in the first place, we will take a range of steps to act on this review."

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