Researchers at Aston University are carrying out interviews with elderly patients who take multiple medicines, as well as their carers and health professionals, to work out better medicines management strategies.
The researchers say that while three million people take multiple medicines, there are no reliable systems to help them and their carers manage their pills.
The 20-month project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, will link current evidence with patient experience.
Study leader Ian Maidment says: “I worked as a pharmacist for 25 years and it is my belief that we do not have a system for handling complex medicine regimes well.”
It is hoped the ‘first-hand experience’ collated in the MEMORABLE (Medication Management in Older People: Realist Approaches Based on Literature and Evaluation) study will guide future practice in the NHS.
It is estimated that in the UK about 5,700 people die every year because of medicines-related adverse events and the overall cost of such events is £750m. A further £300m is spent on medicines that are never taken.
“The patients themselves may make mistakes, taking the wrong pill or dosage,” says Maidment. “And where responsibility for looking after medication moves to a family carer, they may find this role a burden.
“We need to find a way to make this safer and easier, based on what we can learn from the experiences of patients, carers and practitioners, and from good evidence of what works well. That’s what makes this study novel.”
Geoff Wong, researcher at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford and a GP in north London, says: “I get a lot of guidelines on the conditions they have but fewer, if any, that target the issue of how to help them manage their complex medication regimes.
“What’s needed is a better understanding of the challenges that older people with complex medication regimes face. Only then will it be possible to work out who needs what kind of help, when, how and why with their complex medication regime.
“That is what I hope this project will do.”