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National overprescribing review for England: another step forward?
  1. Julian Treadwell
  1. Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julian Treadwell, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; julian.treadwell{at}

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‘Overprescribing must stop…’, ‘Ministers call for crackdown…’, ran the headlines in late September, reporting the publication of the National Overprescribing Review.1–3 Behind these over-simplifications lies a thorough and considered report aiming to stimulate long-term change across the health system to address this major problem.3 Commissioned in 2018 by the then Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and led by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, it describes a ‘once in a generation opportunity to reset prescribing in a new, patient-centred way’. Developed via a wide consultation process involving ‘hundreds of patients, clinicians and experts’, it draws together much work of the last two decades on medicines optimisation.3

Overprescribing is defined broadly here as the prescription of medication that the patient does not want or need, or where medication harms exceed benefits.3 The report’s summary leads with a largely unsubstantiated estimate that ‘it is …

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