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Government pledges to reduce overprescribing of medicines

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Overprescribing is responsible for 20% Overprescribing is responsible for 20% of hospital admissions

Action to prevent medicines being prescribed unnecessarily will be taken by the Government, following a review led by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England.

The review estimates 10% of items dispensed in primary care are overprescribed with 15% of people taking 5 or more medicines a day, increasing the risk of adverse effects. Around one in five hospital admissions in over-65s are caused by the adverse effects of medicines.

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‘This is an incredibly important review which will have a lasting impact on people’s lives and improve the way medicines are prescribed,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.

‘With 15% of people taking 5 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.’

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.

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‘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,’ said Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England.

‘This report recognises the strong track record of the NHS in the evidence-based use of medicines, thanks to the clinical expertise of GPs and pharmacists and their teams, and our achievements to date in addressing overprescribing, which is a global issue.’

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