A wise choice

Say no to homeopathic products, be cautious with complementary medicines and be careful when adding additional treatments for patients with multiple medications, PSA advises  

New recommendations on the prescribing of multiple medicines and the effectiveness of complementary medicines, including homeopathy, have been released today by the PSA and NPS through the Choosing Wisely Australia initiative.

The PSA developed its inaugural Choosing Wisely list of six recommendations for Australians to consider around medicines use – including prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines.

The six recommendations are:

  1. Do not initiate medications to treat symptoms, adverse events, or side effects (unless in an emergency) without determining if an existing therapy or lack of adherence is the cause, and whether a dosage reduction, discontinuation of a medication, or another treatment is warranted.
  2. Do not promote or provide homeopathic products as there is no reliable evidence of efficacy. Where patients choose to access homeopathic treatments, health professionals should discuss the lack of benefit with patients.
  3. Do not dispense a repeat prescription for an antibiotic without first clarifying clinical appropriateness.
  4. Do not prescribe medications for patients on five or more medications, or continue medications indefinitely, without a comprehensive review of their existing medications, including over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements, to determine whether any of the medications or supplements should or can be reduced or discontinued.
  5. Do not continue benzodiazepines, other sedative hypnotics or antipsychotics in older adults for insomnia, agitation or delirium for more than three months without review.
  6. Do not recommend complementary medicines or therapies unless there is credible evidence of efficacy and the benefit of use outweighs the risk.

NPS MedicineWise client relations manager, Dr Robyn Lindner, said: “Sometimes people are unsure of what medicines they’re taking and why. We encourage you to discuss the implications of each new medicine with your healthcare provider and ensure you are fully informed about issues such as necessity, risks and side effects.

“These new recommendations will help guide health professionals and their patients in a discussion about appropriate use of medicines based on the latest evidence.” 

PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman said “While the use of medicines offers significant benefits for many people, they may also cause unnecessary harm. It is important that we balance the positive and negative effects of each medicine, tailored to each individual with their care goals front of mind.

“As experts in medicines, pharmacists have the ability to provide specialised review of a person’s medication regimen, resulting in recommendations or actions to help people get the most out of their medicines. Any person taking multiple medicines, high-risk medicines, or who is at high risk of medicine misadventure, including transitioning between care settings, should have their medicines reviewed.” 

“In regards to homeopathic products there is no reliable evidence of efficacy. All health professionals should take the time to discuss with health consumers, who are taking or considering taking these products, the lack of efficacy and the risks in rejecting or delaying other treatments known to be safe and effective.

“Prescribing data shows that close to 25% of repeat antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed more than four weeks after the initial dispensing, indicating potentially inappropriate antibiotic use in the community. Pharmacists can help to reduce the burden of antibiotic resistance by first clarifying the clinical appropriateness of repeat antibiotic prescriptions before dispensing.”

Dr Freeman said many health consumers turned to complementary and alternative medicines for a variety of reasons and often sought expert advice from pharmacists relating to these products.

“Pharmacists and medical practitioners should present clear information to consumers about the safety of and evidence for complementary and alternative medicines and only recommend these products when the known benefit outweighs the potential harm,” he said.


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