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Patient-centred management of polypharmacy: a process for practice
  1. Nina L Barnett1,
  2. Lelly Oboh2,
  3. Katie Smith3
  1. 1Pharmacy Department, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, UK
  2. 2Community Health Services, Guys & St Thomas NHS Trust, London, UK
  3. 3East Anglia Medicines Information Service, Dept of Pharmacy & Medicines Management, Ipswich Hospital, Ipswich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Nina L Barnett, Pharmacy Department, Northwick Park Hospital, Watford Road, Harrow HA1 3UJ, UK; Nina.barnett{at}


Medicines are the most common intervention to improve health. The number of medicines taken by older people in the UK has been steadily increasing for the last three decades. Polypharmacy is a term that refers to either the prescribing or taking many medicines. Concerns about the risks of polypharmacy in primary and secondary care are growing, supported by evidence which associates polypharmacy with increased adverse drug events, hospital admissions, increased healthcare costs and non-adherence. In the UK, this can largely be attributed, over the last 20 years, to the greater availability of evidence-based treatments promoted through therapeutic guidelines which are designed for single conditions, rather than addressing the multimorbidity that affects many older people. There is also currently a paucity of evidence-based national guidance around reducing and stopping medication and incorporating the patient perspective. This paper reviews current UK literature around polypharmacy including a description of four key resources which all make use of international literature and all focus on the medication aspects of polypharmacy from a clinician's perspective. The patient-centred approach combines both clinical health professionals and patient perspective. Developed using existing resources, it is designed to assist with collaborative (patient and clinician based) medication review to inform decisions around deprescribing and address polypharmacy as part of overall strategies to optimise medicines for the patient. Presented as a diagrammatic representation in seven steps, it also includes guidance on points to consider, actions to take and questions to ask in order to reduce polypharmacy and undertake deprescribing safely.

  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)
  • Evidence based medicine

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