UK orders crackdown on overprescribing medicines iStock image
The UK government has ordered a crackdown on overprescribing of medicines following a review that revealed 10 per cent of the prescribed items in primary care are inappropriate for patients.
Led by chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Dr Keith Ridge CBE, the study found that overprescribing may disproportionately affect black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and more vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with disabilities.
It has also called for more research to investigate why overprescribing is more likely to affect these select groups.
The review, ordered by the government in 2018 and published on Wednesday (22), concluded that overprescribing is a “serious problem”.
Highlighting the adverse effects of medicines, it said around 6.5 per cent of total hospital admissions are caused due to overprescribing.
The study also noted that higher consumption of medicines increased the chances of harmful side effects. For instance, drugs to control blood pressure can increase the risk of falls among the frail and elderly.
The review described overprescribing as a situation where potential harm outweighed the benefit of the medication. It could happen when a better alternative is available, but not prescribed, the survey showed.
Dr Ridge said, “Medicines do people a lot of good and the practical measures set out in this report will help clinicians ensure people are getting the right type and amount of medication, which is better for patients and also benefits taxpayers, by preventing unnecessary spending on prescriptions.”
The report makes six key recommendations, including the introduction of a new National Clinical Director for Prescribing to lead a three-year programme covering research and training for effective prescribing.
It also recommended safe withdrawal of inappropriate medication and called for cultural changes to reduce a reliance on medicines and support for shared decision-making between clinicians and patients.
The government has accepted all recommendations and reforms to pharmacist training are underway.
Health and Social Care secretary Sajid Javid said, “This is an incredibly important review which will have a lasting impact on people’s lives and improve the way medicines are prescribed.
“With 15 per cent of people taking five or more medicines a day, in some cases to deal with the side effects of another medicine, more needs to be done to listen to patients and help clinical teams tackle overprescribing.
“I look forward to working with Dr Keith Ridge and our dedicated NHS teams to deliver on these recommendations.”