Association of Pharmacy
Technicians UK (APTUK)
The Professional Leadership Body for Pharmacy Technicians

Polypharmacy: Getting Our Medicines Right

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has been working with stakeholders, including APTUK, on new guidance on polypharmacy (when people take multiple medicines) for pharmacy professionals  and all healthcare organisations involved with medicines.

Medicines have a very positive impact on the lives of millions of people. But as more of us live longer, with multiple long-term conditions, we take more and more medicines. This can become a practical challenge and it also increases the risk of harm.

Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right provides a summary of the scale and complexity of the issue of polypharmacy. It outlines how healthcare professionals, patients and carers can find solutions when polypharmacy causes problems for patients and points to useful resources that can help.  Best Practice statements aimed at specific groups are included and for Pharmacy Technicians these are described as:

  • Pharmacy Technicians in all care settings contribute to reducing the impact of taking multiple medicines and the pill burden on people and particularly for vulnerable groups such as older people.
  • Pharmacy Technicians, in all care settings, undertake ongoing training to ensure that their consultation skills enable high quality person-centred discussions about medicines; that they can carry out holistic, structured medication reviews and use evidence-based tools to support high quality medication reviews and that they highlight any issues or concerns raised with the most appropriate person (e.g. pharmacist, prescriber, multidisciplinary team).
  • Pharmacy Technicians undertaken medication reviews in all care settings, where possible, within the pharmacy and multidisciplinary team and with the input of people using medicines, as well as carers if the situation allows.
  • Pharmacy Technicians have an understanding of the side effects of medicines, recommended doses and best time to take a medicine for optimum effect and are alert to identifying persons taking multiple medicines, especially those who may not be managing the challenges of taking complex regimens or multiple medicines and highlight these people to their pharmacist or prescriber.
  • Pharmacy Technicians in all care settings manage the supply and storage of appropriately prescribed medicines reducing medicines wastage and associated cost savings and engage with people to increase medicines adherence to potentially reduce admissions to hospital caused by poor adherence.
  • Pharmacy Technicians in all settings are alert to potential adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and take steps to reduce the risk of harm, this should include highlighting any issues identified with the most appropriate person and ensuring the reporting of suspected ADRs using the Yellow Card Scheme.

There is also a shorter version of the full guidance and an infographic aimed at patients.  Clare Howard, lead author of the guidance has also written this blog Polypharmacy: what is it and why is it important

In response to the publication of the guidance, Tess Fenn, President of APTUK, said “As the number of people living into advanced years with multiple long-term conditions is increasing, polypharmacy is a considerable health challenge. The risks of potential harm to people taking multiple medicines is increasing.  Pharmacy Techncians and other healthcare professionals have an opportunity to address this and to support patients and the public.  APTUK are pleased to have been instrumental in the development of ‘Polypharmacy: Getting our medicines right’.  The best practice recommendations in this guidance aim to explain the responsibilities that everyone has around problematic polypharmacy and the resources will guide pharmacy professionals to take a lead role in enabling behavioural and system change”.

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