Reducing Inappropriate Polypharmacy in Care Homes

Polypharmacy literally means ‘many medicines’ and has been defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as four or more medicines including those:
• Prescribed
• Bought in a pharmacy (including herbal medicines)

In 2017, the WHO declared polypharmacy as its third patient safety challenge and aimed to reduce severe avoidable medication related harm by 50% over 5 years. A report published in 2017 estimated that 410,000 people were living in care homes in England.

Approximately 70% of care home residents have dementia and the number of people with dementia in the UK is forecast to increase to over 1.1 million by 2025. Anticholinergic medicines have been found to be particularly harmful to people with dementia as they directly block the beneficial effects of dementia medicines. Anticholinergics are used to treat a range of conditions such as allergies, depression and bladder control problems. Work has been undertaken to highlight the issues related to anticholinergics in those with dementia and how these medicines can be reduced in care home residents.

The full report and implementation guide will be available from 1st September 2019.

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