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Addressing the Polypharmacy Challenge in Older People

The Polypharmacy Challenge Blog


Organising polypharmacy: unpacking medicines, unpacking meanings

I recently presented some of our work from the APOLLO-MM project at the North American Primary Care Research Group (NAPCRG) Annual Meeting in Toronto, Canada. I presented a Distinguished Paper in a plenary session, having won the Society of Academic Primary Care senior presenter’s prize at the SAPC annual conference in Exeter in the summer of 2019.

Attended by about 1200 delegates, the NAPCRG conference showcases primary care research from all over the world. Our paper was entitled “Organising polypharmacy: unpacking medicines, unpacking meanings” - a whistle stop tour through some of our recent observations of the work of community pharmacy in preparing and organising medication for patients and the work of patients as they organise their medication in the home. When older patients are prescribed ten or more different items by their doctors (as all of the patients in our study are) this organisation is no mean feat!



Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash


I was delighted that the presentation received such a warm welcome from our international colleagues in primary care. It was described it as a "wonderful journey into the patient world of polypharmacy" – a touching description which prompted me to realise that our project is quite unique in the extent to which it engages with the medicines work patients do that goes on behind closed doors, and remains something of a mystery to many clinicians.


The presentation prompted discussion about whether, how and to what extent polypharmacy - in the context of patients with multiple medical problems - is ‘evidence-based’, something we have touched on in a previous editorial in the journal Family Practice. I did not come across any other presentations at the NAPCRG conference that were based primarily on ethnographic research so it was a real privilege to be able to showcase the value of ethnography as capable of reaching parts that other research approaches cannot reach! I am very grateful to the Society of Academic Primary Care and to NAPCRG for this amazing opportunity.,


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