Minister: My pre­scrip­tion to kick UK’s pill ad­dic­tion

Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms slammed for en­cour­ag­ing over-use of drugs

Daily Mail - - News - By So­phie Bor­land Health Ed­i­tor

THE drugs in­dus­try is fac­ing a crack­down for en­cour­ag­ing doc­tors to over-pre­scribe medicines – many of which may not ac­tu­ally be help­ing pa­tients.

Health sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock has or­dered a re­view into our re­liance on pre­scrip­tion drugs, warn­ing that a ‘small army of peo­ple’ from phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms was push­ing their use.

He said it was up to the NHs to re­sist that pres­sure.

in an in­ter­view with the Mail, Mr Han­cock re­vealed that 20 pre­scrip­tions were writ­ten per head of pop­u­la­tion each year – a rise of a third in just a decade.

He said half of over-75s were tak­ing five or more pre­scrip­tions at a time.

An­tide­pres­sants, heart fail­ure drugs, high blood pres­sure pills and di­a­betes med­i­ca­tion are among the most used.

An­nounc­ing his re­view, the Health sec­re­tary said he wanted GPs to ad­vise more pa­tients to join walk­ing groups, take part in cof­fee morn­ings or do some gar­den­ing or vol­un­teer­ing.

such ‘ so­cial pre­scrib­ing’ has been shown to be ef­fec­tive against de­men­tia, heart dis­ease, type 2 di­a­betes, de­pres­sion and lone­li­ness.

Mr Han­cock said: ‘ Be­cause drugs are made by com­pa­nies who un­der­stand­ably want to sell them, there is a small army of peo­ple push­ing the use of drugs. there isn’t a coun­ter­vail­ing army of peo­ple say­ing you don’t need the drugs, you can change be­hav­iour in­stead.

‘it’s the role of the NHs to lean against the pres­sure from drug com­pa­nies to al­ways use more drugs.

‘i’ve been con­cerned by the scale of the rise over the past decade, and we’ve got to query whether that’s right.’

He has in­structed NHs Eng­land’s chief phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal of­fi­cer Dr Keith Ridge to carry out the re­view.

it will look at re­duc­ing polyphar­macy – putting pa­tients on mul­ti­ple drugs, in­clud­ing ones used solely to com­bat the side-ef­fects of oth­ers.

GPs will also be urged to call pa­tients in for med­i­ca­tion re­views to see whether there are any pills they can stop tak­ing.

the Health sec­re­tary also wants to doc­tors to say ‘No’ to pa­tients who de­mand any un­nec­es­sary med­i­ca­tion.

Many GPs say they are pres­sured by pa­tients to pre­scribe a drug, even when they don’t think it will do any good. He said: i’ve sat next to GPs who are telling me about the chal­lenge of a pa­tient who says, “i want a pre­scrip­tion”.

‘i want to em­power GPs to use so­cial pre­scrib­ing and ad­vice – nutri­tional ad­vice, smok­ing ces­sa­tion ad­vice or ad­vice on how much peo­ple drink – when that’s clin­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate.

‘A re­ally good ex­am­ple is type 2 di­a­betes, where nutri­tional ad­vice or sup­port to lose weight can get you off di­a­betes drugs and help tackle the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem, rather than sim­ply man­age the con­di­tion.’ He praised t tom Wt Wat­son, th the d deputy t leader of the labour Party, who re­versed his type 2 di­a­betes with diet and ex­er­cise alone.

A record 1.1bil­lion pre­scrip­tions were writ­ten in 2017, up nearly 40 per cent in ten years.

ten per cent of adults are on an­tide­pres­sants, and 14 per cent are on statins to lower their choles­terol level.

Mr Han­cock said: ‘ there are sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns amongst clin­i­cians and med­i­cal lead­ers about the risk of over-pre­scrip­tions in Bri­tain. over ten years since i 2006 the th av­er­age num­ber b of pre­scrip­tions per per­son has gone from 15 to 20 – a rise of about a third in a time when peo­ple have got health­ier.

‘Part of that is the devel­op­ment of drugs which im­proved peo­ple’s health, and that’s a good thing. But there’s a concern about over-pre­scrip­tion.

‘there’s a concern that tak­ing too many drugs at once can be a prob­lem, es­pe­cially if they in­ter­act with each other and es­pe­cially if the peo­ple pre­scrib­ing them are try­ing to treat in­di­vid­ual l prob­lems bl as op­posed dt to the th per­son as a whole.’

His con­cerns echo warn­ings from lead­ing doc­tors. Pro­fes­sor Car­rie MacEwen, chair­man of the Academy of Med­i­cal Royal Col­leges, said: ‘over-med­i­cal­i­sa­tion is a se­ri­ous prob­lem.’

in 2016, six ex­perts – in­clud­ing sir Richard thomp­son, for­mer doctor to the Queen – said pa­tients were rou­tinely given medicines un­nec­es­sar­ily, and ac­cused firms of de­vel­op­ing prof­itable drugs rather than ones likely to help pa­tients.

‘Over-med­i­cal­i­sa­tion is a se­ri­ous prob­lem’

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