The Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists
Recommendations from the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists on polypharmacy and harm reduction in prescribing policy. ASCEPT is the professional and independent Society in Australia and New Zealand with expertise in the use and toxicity of medicines and chemicals. Established in 1966, ASCEPT is affiliated with the International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) and the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX).
Reduce the use of medicines when there is a safer or more effective non-pharmacological management strategy.
Pharmacological treatments should be avoided or minimised if safer or more effective nonpharmacological alternatives are available. Pharmacological treatments may become a panacea for chronic lifestyle-related problems, and may detract from behaviour management tools that have proven effective in managing these same problems. There is also a risk of adverse effects from particular pharmacological treatments which may be avoidable by using non-pharmacological management strategies. For instance, physiotherapy should be used instead of oxycodone for addressing non-cancer pain, because of the risk of adverse effects. Another example is the use of psychotropic medicines for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia when non-pharmacological management strategies are both more effective and safer.
- Declercq T, Petrovic M, Azermai M, et al. Withdrawal versus continuation of chronic antipsychotic drugs for behavioural and psychological symptoms in older people with dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;3:CD007726.
- NSW Therapeutic Advisory Group Inc. Preventing and managing problems with opioid prescribing for chronic non-cancer pain. NSW TAG: Sydney, 2015.
A working party of members of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists (ASCEPT) was established to propose an initial list of recommendations. ASCEPT’s membership was then invited to participate in an online survey to comment on the appropriateness of the proposed recommendations and suggest additional items for consideration.
Based on the survey responses, six recommendations were shortlisted. Following an evidence review the top 5 list items were selected. The final list was signed off by the ASCEPT President in April 2016.
- 1 Recognise and stop the prescribing cascade.
- 2 Reduce the use of medicines when there is a safer or more effective non-pharmacological management strategy.
- 3 Avoid using a higher or lower dose than is necessary for the patient to optimise the ‘benefit-to-risk’ ratio and achieve the patient’s therapeutic goals.
- 4 Stop medicines when no further benefit will be achieved or the potential harms outweigh the potential benefits for the individual patient.
- 5 Reduce use of multiple concurrent therapeutics (hyper-polypharmacy).