Pilot polypharmacy approach proves successful

14 July 2015
Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) and Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) are delighted with the benefits Whanganui patients are receiving from the Central Region’s Too many medicines? service pilot.
WDHB allied health manager Louise Allsopp says the service has been well received by the health community and the now completed evaluation has been endorsed by the Health of Older Persons Network and the Regional Executive Committee.
The service was also awarded the Excellence in Integration and Collaboration Award at the recent Whanganui Health and Disability Quality Awards.

“The team who put the service together are extremely happy with the feedback received so far,” says Mrs Allsopp. “It really is a credit to all involved, but it’s the benefits that patients are experiencing as a result of being seen by the service that is most pleasing.”
The evaluation found in most cases, patients were able to safely reduce the number, or dosage, of the medications they were taking after consultation with the service and this had resulted in an average saving of $364 a year, per patient.
Launched in August 2013, the Too many medicines? service aimed to raise the awareness of polypharmacy and reduce harm resulting from people taking a lot of pills, and a combination of pills that might not be working well together. That includes 'over the counter' medications such as paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen.
“Because taking a number of different medicines, particularly if you are older, puts you at a higher risk of serious medicine-related side effects we focused on ensuring people are taking the right pills for them,” says Mrs Allsopp.
“As we get older, we tend to be given more medicines for different conditions. Sometimes we’re given them by different doctors, so we need to stop and check that what we’re taking, including medications purchased at the supermarket, are working well for us.”
“Prescribers throughout the district have responded very positively to the introduction of the service,” says Mrs Allsopp. “Many prescribers have referred patients to the service and a number of patients have referred themselves.”
“In a relatively short period of time we were able to see a reduced medicines risk for those who had been through the service.”
“Please remember that if you are experiencing dizziness, confusion, nausea, constipation, incontinence, a tendency to fall or other concerning symptoms, it might be a sign that your medicines are not working well together. Not knowing why you’re taking a medicine is also a good reason to have your medicines looked at.  If you have concerns, please discuss with your pharmacist or doctor.”