Grant awarded for deprescribing guidelines

health professional at computer with magnifying glass

A pharmacist has been awarded a $1.5 million Federal Government grant to investigate how to safely reduce inappropriate medications prescribed to older Australians

Dr Emily Reeve, a researcher and Lecturer of Pharmacy Practice at the University of South Australia, has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Investigator Grant to create processes for developing deprescribing recommendations and implementing them into aged care facilities.

According to the PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report, over 90% of residents in aged-care facilities have at least one medication-related problem and as many as 80% are prescribed potentially inappropriate medicines.

Dr Emily Reeve. Credit: Supplied/UniSA.

Dr Reeve says despite widespread evidence showing the harm that inappropriate medications are causing to older Australians, current guidelines provide few – if any – recommendations for clinicians about deprescribing.

“Withdrawing inappropriate medication may seem straightforward, but it’s not. It’s complex due to a lack of evidence-based guidelines based on robust and internationally recognised methodology,” she says.

“The feedback from clinicians is that the lack of guidelines not only limits deprescribing but it also influences the culture of medicine, suggesting that withdrawing medicines is not as important as prescribing them in the first place.”

The University of South Australia researcher will use the grant over the next five years to establish guidelines, trialling their implementation in aged care facilities and measuring their effectiveness.

Her work will also directly address the overuse of antipsychotics in aged care facilities, as identified in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety interim report.

“In residential aged care homes in Australia, inappropriate medications account for around 20% of prescription costs. We have an opportunity here to address that issue and redirect that money on high-value care instead,” Dr Reeve says.

Last year, Health Minister Greg Hunt declared medicines safety and the quality use of medicines as the country’s 10th National Health Priority Area.

The Federal Government is investing $32 million over two years from September 2019, to support Medical Research Future Fund Investigator Grants.

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