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Knowledge Hub

Health boards in Scotland told to take realistic medicine approach to polypharmacy

Will guidance on polypharmacy improve prescribing in Scotland?


NHS boards in Scotland have been told to take more action to avoid medicine-related harm by accelerating the number of polypharmacy reviews for patients taking more than one medicine.


Updated polypharmacy guidance for 2018 calls for a realistic medicine approach to ensure that patients are prescribed medicines that meet their changing needs and expectations; this includes considering stopping medicines if they are potentially causing more harm than good.


The guidance includes a clear structure for both initiation of new medicines and review of existing medicines, and has a particular focus on considering what matters to the patient.


It is in line with the realistic medicine agenda promoted by Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood. This approach calls on clinicians to discuss with patients the risks and benefits of treatment, including the option and implications of doing nothing.


Further information

Healthcare Improvement Scotland: Polypharmacy Guidance, Realistic Prescribing 2018

Scottish Government: Practising realistic medicine