LIVING longer should be a blessing. But as Scotland’s population has aged, like other Western nations, the number of people being treated for ten or more conditions at once has spiralled.

Thanks to medicines, patients can live into old age with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, heart conditions, and numerous other ‘morbidities’.

Long-term conditions (LTCs) such as these are one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. In Scotland, 40 per cent of the population are living with at least one LTC.

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Patients with just one LTC are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital as people who have none, while those living with multiple LTCs are known to have longer hospital stays on average and more post-operative complications.

Between 1995 and 2010, the percentage of people in Scotland being prescribed 10 or more medicines climbed from 1.9% to 5.8%.

Drug costs are one of the biggest pressures on NHS Scotland’s budget. In 2016/17, £1.7 billion was spent on drugs - an 19.4% increase in five years.

Some of that can be put down to new and more expensive drugs coming onto the market, such as cutting edge cancer therapies, but most of it is due to the sheer volume of drugs being prescribed.

Unplanned hospital admissions are also a huge cost. The average hospital stay for a non-elective inpatient admission in Scotland, as of 2015, was £2746.

Yet we know that half of admissions among people aged 65 and over who are taking five or more medications could have been avoided.

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The Scottish Government’s Realistic Medicine agenda is attempting to address over-prescribing, especially among patients at the end of life or in care homes.

Recommendations have also been made for automatic medicine review for all patients on 10 or more drugs, or on any high-risk medication.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh, said: “In Scotland, while there are also hospital admissions due to polypharmacy, mainly in elderly patients, work is underway between geriatricians, GPs and community pharmacists to address this issue.”