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MHRA warns of elderly 'over-prescribing'

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs have been told by the head of the UK's drug regulator to prescribe fewer medicines to older patients, as the body sets up a review of doctor training in pharmacology.

Professor Sir Alasdair Beckenridge, chair of the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory products Agency (MHRA), said this week that GPs often prescribed far too many drugs to elderly patients, and highlighted doctor training in pharmacology as a priority to address the rise in over prescribing.

Professor Beckenridge said: ‘Some drugs are continued for long periods beyond the point when they are needed. They were justified in the short term but not in the long term. Pharmacists should be able to question prescriptions that doctors write and ask "Is this really necessary?"'

He vowed to lobby for better doctor training on prescribing, claiming it had become a victim of cuts. ‘Training in pharmacology for doctors has been squeezed. We have set up a working party to look at it. We are very concerned about this.'

The MHRA chief's comments come after Pulse revealed that Dr Keith Ridge, the Department of Health's chief pharmaceutical advisor, spoke at an RCGP roundtable event in November and called for a ‘fresh look' at the use of cardiovascular medicines in the over-80s.

‘We spend £12.5bn a year [on prescribing] but are we getting the best outcomes from medicines? There's a growing view to suggest we are not.'

Academic evidence suggest patients aged over 80 are on an average of eight different medicines and the Department of Health says it plans to review use of drugs as a key part of its quality, innovation, prevention and productivity (QIPP) programme.

Patients over 80 are on an average of eight drugs

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