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Updates to award-winning Polypharmacy comparator tool now available

As the population ages, more and more of us are taking multiple medicines to manage long-term conditions, sometimes referred to as Polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy is an important and increasing public health issue in England, and around the world.

While medicines have a significant and positive benefit on many, many patients, it is important that we can identify patients in whom the number or combination of medicines could lead to an increased risk of problems.

For over five years, the national Academic Health Science Network, led by Wessex AHSN, has been working with the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) and NHS Digital to create a suite of Polypharmacy Prescribing Comparators. The first set of national polypharmacy comparators in England was published in June 2017.

The Polypharmacy prescribing comparators can help PCNs, GPs, CCGs and others to identify patients deemed to be at-risk who take multiple medicines and may require a structured medication review.

This second iteration has new, additional functionality for searching age bands.

 In addition to the volume and previous therapeutic comparators, the updated tool will help to identify:

  • Patients concurrently prescribed multiple analgesic medicines
  • Patients prescribed SSRIs/SNRIs and medicines known to increase the risk of bleeding
  • Patients prescribed two, three or four or more medicines that can have an unwanted hypotensive effect.  

The comparators are an NHS England-recommended tool to help to identify patients for a structured medication review, a key aspect of the PCN DES; and won a national HSJ award in 2019. Following the publication of the original comparators, case studies were developed to show the impact of the comparators being used by clinicians.

These case studies show how practices have used this data to successfully identify patients at risk of harm and review their medicines usage:

NE Hampshire and Farnham case study (PDF: 140KB)Case study poster (PDF: 76KB) 

To find out more about how the polypharmacy comparators work, view this short YouTube video.