Clinical Negligence & Catastrophic Injury Solicitors
Government calls for end to medicine overprescribing.
Many patients are being prescribed unnecessary and even harmful treatments, a report warns.
The review, in England, suggests one-tenth of items dispensed by primary care are inappropriate or could be changed.
The government is appointing a prescribing tsar to help with the issue and stop waste.
Around 15% of people take five or more medicines a day and some deal with the side effects of the others.
The more medicines a person takes, the higher the chance that one or more will have an unwanted or harmful effect.
Overprescribing can happen when for several reasons. These include that a better alternative is available but not given; the medicine is appropriate for a condition but not the patient; a condition changes and the medicine is no longer appropriate; the patient no longer needs the medicine but the prescription continues.
Chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Dr Keith Ridge, said: "Medicines do people a lot of good and this report is not about taking treatment or services away from people where they are effective. But medicines can also cause harm and can be wasted."
The number of items dispensed by GPs and other primary care providers has doubled, from an average of 10 per person in 1996 to around 20 per person now, according to the report.
Repeat prescriptions make up around three-quarters of all prescription items. Around 6.5% of hospital admissions are caused by the adverse effects of medicines, or more than 20% in the over-65 age group.
Improved patient records and handovers between hospitals and GP surgeries are among recommendations made in the report.
Clinical pharmacists working with GPs to review medication, and a move to more personalised care, is already helping, say experts.
Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Prof Martin Marshall, said: "Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and many of our nurse and pharmacist colleagues in primary care. We strive to prescribe the most appropriate medicine for our patients, in an evidence-based way and this review shows that, in the vast majority of cases, this is happening.
"With our growing and ageing population, with more patients living with multiple, chronic conditions, many people are taking several medications in order to manage their various illnesses, and the interaction between various medicines is something prescribers will take into account.
"In most cases, these medicines are necessary, appropriate and benefit the patient but the aspiration to reduce the number of medications a patient is taking, where safe and possible, is a good one.
"GPs will only ever prescribe medication after a frank discussion about the risks and benefits of the treatment with patients and when alternative options have been explored.
"What GPs and other members of the practice team often need, however, is better access for their patients to alternative, non-pharmacological treatments, which can be patchy across the country."