The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has published guidance on polypharmacy for pharmacists and all healthcare organisations involved with medicines.

The publication ‘Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right’ provides a summary of the scale and complexity of the concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient, which currently affects about 40% of older adults living in their own homes.

The guidance also outlines how healthcare professionals, patients and carers can find solutions when polypharmacy causes problems for patients and points to useful resources that can help.

It suggests that all healthcare organisations have systems in place to ensure people taking ten or more medicines can be identified and highlighted as requiring a comprehensive medication review with a pharmacist, and aims to reduce problematic polypharmacy, improve health and create fewer wasted medicines.

“As people live longer lives with complex and multiple conditions, they are prescribed an increasing number of medicines. Patients with a high pill burden, those taking high-risk medicines or who have complicated medicine regimes can find it difficult to cope," said RPS President Ash Soni.

“The role of pharmacists in reviewing people’s medicines and ensuring they are on the right medicines for their conditions is becoming increasingly important. The greater integration of pharmacists across primary care is an ambition of the NHS Long Term plan and the five-year funding announcement around the GP contract. Closer working across the health professions is the way to drive patient centred care and help ensure patients only take the medicines they need and get the most benefit from them.”

Not addressing polypharmacy risks not only putting extra burden on health services, but also increased medicine waste and cost, it warned.