CPPE: Polypharmacy spring learning campaign

The latest CPPE learning campaign aims to highlight to pharmacy professionals the importance of supporting patients taking multiple medicines through effectively recognising and managing polypharmacy.

The focus of CPPE’s spring learning campaign is on raising awareness of polypharmacy and promoting the role that pharmacy professionals have in supporting patients who take multiple medicines.

CPPE has designed the campaign to highlight the risks patients face if they are taking unnecessary or problematic medicines. It also emphasises the role pharmacy has to play in spotting the risk factors for polypharmacy and taking action to ensure patients get the most from their medicines.

As part of the campaign, all pharmacy professionals will receive a distance learning programme and campaign leaflet in the post.

Polypharmacy has become a key issue in health and social care

How appropriate?

Over the past decade, the average number of items prescribed per person in England has increased significantly. It is accepted that, in many circumstances, taking multiple medicines is appropriate. However, problematic polypharmacy occurs when medicines are prescribed that are not or no longer appropriate, perhaps because they do not provide evidence of benefit, or are causing harm.

Polypharmacy has become a key issue in health and social care, as evidence shows that taking multiple medicines inappropriately increases the risk of hospital admission and leads to poor therapeutic outcomes. Pharmacy teams have a key role to play in recognising polypharmacy, by identifying those patients who are suffering adverse effects from their medicines or who are struggling to cope with a medicines burden.

Throwaway comments from patients about their medicines being a burden should be explored in more detail, while MURs or the NMS can help identify not only adverse effects but also those patients who are taking medicines that may no longer be needed.

A core part of managing polypharmacy is to ensure that a patient’s needs and preferences are taken into account. Patient-centred care is about ensuring that the care provided for a patient takes into account their knowledge, beliefs, culture and values.

Patients should be treated as equal partners in the decision-making process, and any decisions regarding review of treatment should include the patient and their carer at all stages.

Practical approach

The Polypharmacy distance learning programme presents a practical approach that pharmacy professionals can use to engage a patient and/or their carer in a review of multiple medicines, and make recommendations by communicating effectively with the wider health and social care team. It offers a structured approach to medication review in polypharmacy, which is helpful in delivering a highquality process and good outcomes for the patient.

Practice points

  • We know that a third of people aged 75 years and over are taking six or more medicines. How many patients do you see who are taking multiple medicines?
  • What role do you play, or could have played, in ensuring they are all appropriate for the patient?

To answer these questions, and more, go to the CPPE Polypharmacy campaign page.

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