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#HRB30 Story

Software to avoid prescribing inappropriate medicines

21 December 2016

A study at the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research based at the RSCI found that more than a third of people aged over 70 are prescribed one or more ‘potentially inappropriate’ medicines that may cause more harm than good and would benefit from regular clinical review.

To help doctors and pharmacists, researchers at the Centre developed computer software that can help prescribers choosing the most appropriate medicines for patients.

In a randomised trial, the decision-support software reduced the prescribing of potentially inappropriate medicines, particularly high dosage gastrointestinal drugs called proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Lead researcher - Professor Tom Fahey

The problem

Research at the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research (based at RCSI) has already shown that more than a third of people over the age of 70 are prescribed one or more ‘potentially inappropriate’ drugs. This can be expensive and unnecessary, and may expose patients to the risks of side effects when they don’t get as great a benefit from the medicine.

The project

Researchers at the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research systematically reviewed the clinical evidence around appropriate prescribing for elderly patients. They then developed computer software and tested it to see how it could support GPs when making decisions about the safest and most appropriate medicine.

The outcomes
  • A reduction in inappropriate prescriptions of gastrointestinal medications called PPIs for older patients.
  • Computer software to support doctors when they are prescribing medicines, to make sure the medicines are the safest and most appropriate kind for elderly patients. 
  • Software that recommends alternative prescriptions or doses when doctors query a medicine or dosage that could be potentially inappropriate or harmful.
  • Published papers about inappropriate prescriptions among older people in Ireland and the software to help overcome the problem.

Professor Tom Fahey says:

'Maximal dose PPI drugs are widely prescribed at a large cost to the health budget. We have shown that with this decision-support software we can reduce the prescribing of these medications by GPs at the safest dosage'.

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