Around 15 million people in England now have at least one long-term condition, but figures suggest that as many as half of medicines prescribed for people with these conditions are not taken as intended.
It is estimated that the number of people living with several long-term conditions being managed with a number of medicines will rise from 1.9 million in 2008 to nearly 3 million by 2018.
The NICE guidelines on medicines optimisation sets out what needs to be done to put in place the person-centred systems and processes required for the optimal use of medicines.
The safety of medicines is another important consideration when optimising medicines and the guideline recognises the importance of health professionals having an up-to-date list of all the medicines a person is taking.
The use of structured, documented plans for people with chronic or long-term conditions to help them manage their condition using medicines is also covered in the guidelines – as are patient decision aids in consultations involving medicines use to improve patient outcomes.
The importance of carrying out medication reviews for some people, such as those taking multiple medicines, people with chronic or long-term conditions or older people, is also addressed in the guidelines.
These are important in enabling health and social care practitioners to reach an agreement with the person about treatment, optimising the impact of medicines, minimising the number of medicines-related problems and reducing waste.
Paul Chrisp, programme director of the medicines and prescribing centre at NICE, describes the NICE guidelines on medicines optimisation.
“As the population ages and life expectancy increases, more people are taking more medicines than ever before. Getting the most from them is important to patients and potentially reduces cost for the NHS. However, medicines use can be complex. Enabling patients to take their medicines safely and effectively has been a longstanding challenge for the health service.
“The NICE guideline on medicines optimisation sets out what needs to be done by all health and social care practitioners and organisations to put in place the person-centred systems and processes required for the optimal use of medicines. The guideline also supports the safe and effective management of long-term conditions and when people are taking a number of medicines to treat more than one condition.”