Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England Dr Keith Ridge emphasised the importance of medicines optimisation to delegates at the Health + Care show this week.

Giving the opening address at London's ExCel, he said that the system didn't support patients and everyone needed to stop taking medicines for granted.  “We need a reminder as to why we need to do more for better medicine outcomes for patients and better outcomes for the taxpayer,” he said.

He stressed the importance of pharmacists in the equation: “No matter where pharmacy operates and through working with others, pharmacy will drive the optimal use of medicines."

He referred to the Medicines Value Programme and its four areas of policy framework, effective commercial arrangements, optimising medicines through monitoring and review, and an increasingly digital infrastructure.

Ridge said the system needed to collaborate, not duplicate in its efforts. "Pharmacy is leading and has a strengthened capacity at regional level," he said referring to the eight joint NHS and NHS Improvement heads as well as the pharmacy deans. 

He sees the advent of bio-similars as an opportunity and that the NHS had to get quicker at exploiting them. “While biological medicines are very important, they are complex and expensive. We now have an increasing range of biosimilars which, by 2020-21, could see the NHS save £200-£300m a year.”

Inappropriate polypharmacy was a problem he highlighted "particularly seen in elderly patients" and quoted the statistic of the one millions over 65s who are prescribed eight or more unique medicines. Patients in care homes were particularly prone to this he said.

He said primary care was starting to address the problem of the over use of antibiotics and challenged his audience to take up the mantle of being an Antibiotic Guardian. “It will become a big problem if we don’t sort it out,” he said.

Ridge believes that there is a real drive to get medicines optimisation embedded in the NHS. “The pharmacy profession is in the lead,” he said. “Expectations are high.”

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