Research Output
Appropriate polypharmacy: a barometer for integrated care
Polypharmacy, the concurrent use of multiple medicines by one individual, is a common and growing challenge driven by an ageing population and the growing number of people living longer with chronic conditions. Up to 11% of unplanned hospital admissions in the UK are attributable to, mostly avoidable, harm from medicines. However, this topic is not yet central to integrated practice. This paper reviews the challenge that polypharmacy presents to the health and care system and offers lessons for integrated policy and practice.

Two commonly encountered scenarios illustrate the relevance of addressing inappropriate polypharmacy to integrated practice. An overview of the literature on polypharmacy and frailty, including two recent large studies of policy and practice in Europe, identifies lessons for practitioners, managers, policy makers and commissioners.

Comprehensive change strategies should extend beyond pharmacist led deprescribing initiatives. An inter-professional and systems thinking approach is required, so all members of the integrated team can play their part in realising the value of holistic prescribing, appropriate polypharmacy and shared decision making.

Practical implications
Awareness and education about polypharmacy should be embedded in inter-professional training for all practitioners who care for people with multimorbidity or frailty.

This paper will help policy makers, commissioners, managers and practitioners understand the value of addressing polypharmacy within their integrated services. Best practice national guidance developed in Scotland illustrates how to target resources so those at greatest risk of harm from polypharmacy can benefit from effective pharmaceutical care as part of holistic integrated care.

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    18 December 2020

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  • Funders:

    Scottish Government


Mair, A., Antoniadou, E., Hendry, A., & Gabrovec, B. (2021). Appropriate polypharmacy: a barometer for integrated care. Journal of Integrated Care, 29(2), 204-214.


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