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module menu icon Introduction & module overview

Caring for patients with multimorbidities is a major challenge to health services across the world and these patients typically take multiple medicines (polypharmacy). Prescribing medicines is the single most common healthcare intervention in primary care, with medicines ranking third among the highest cost healthcare expenditure items. 

Polypharmacy has now become the rule rather than an exception and can be either appropriate
or inappropriate. In the UK, up to 11 per cent of unplanned hospital admissions are attributable
to medication-related adverse events, of which 70 per cent occur in elderly patients on multiple medicines. Around 50 per cent of these are deemed preventable.  

Higher proportions of adults with multiple morbidities live in the most deprived communities; this is now an urgent public health challenge. The NHS is addressing this by introducing policy to address inappropriate polypharmacy, the outcome of which may result in stopping some medicines or reducing the doses (deprescribing). 

The UK is also working towards the World Health Organization (WHO) global patient safety challenge, Medication Without Harm, in which a key area identified as needing to be addressed is medication safety in polypharmacy. 

Community pharmacists have not yet received their due regard as key players in detecting problematic polypharmacy, referring for prescribing review and providing post-review support for patients. This module will provide community pharmacists with the key tools needed to contribute to addressing and preventing avoidable harm through polypharmacy and to support their patients’ medicines use.