It’s imperative we ensure everyone has access to the right medicines, but overprescription and polypharmacy are growing issues that we also need to address.
Total expenditure on medicines in England by the NHS in 2020/21 was estimated to be £16.7 billion (Source: NHS BSA), and is growing year on year, contributing to the continued rising cost of the NHS. This is amplified by wasted medicines, with a report from NHS England estimating that unused medicine costs the NHS around £300 million every single year.
As the population ages, more people are living longer with more illnesses to treat. NICE guidelines outline how a quarter of people over 60 have at least two long-term health conditions, but between 30-50% of medicines prescribed for these issues are not taken as intended.
Overprescribing can lead to preventable hospital visits and admissions, and even premature deaths. It occurs where clinical guidelines only apply for single conditions and not comorbidities, there are few alternatives to prescription, or time is pressured. It often disproportionately affects Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (Source: Department of Health and Social Care) and those who are more vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with disabilities.
We’re working nationally to deliver initiatives that concentrate on widening access to medicines, including novel therapies, while delivering programmes in tandem that aim to enhance medicine safety across the system. At the core, we’re supporting healthcare professionals to identify patients at risk and encourage better conversations around medicines.