Strategies for reducing the prescribing of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): patient self-regulation of treatment may be an under-exploited resource

Escalating costs of proton pump inhibitor (PPI) prescribing are a source of increasing concern. To reduce costs, GPs in the UK have been coming under pressure to restrict PPI prescribing in primary care, e.g. by raising the prescribing threshold for new patients, and encouraging established patients to accept a reduced dose, if not stop taking PPIs altogether. The need to reduce prescribing costs impacts on patients by redefining, i.e. reducing, the boundaries of clinical need for which PPI prescribing is deemed appropriate. This may be rationalised by the assumptions that much existing prescribing is inappropriate, is applied to relatively minor and trivial afflictions, and that patients put pressure on their doctors to initiate prescribing of PPIs, after which they are very reluctant to give them up. The research involved extended interviews to elicit GP and patient views and experience of PPI prescribing. A particular focus was a comparison of the views of patients and GPs, and the understanding and articulation of the patient perspective on PPIs, which has been largely absent from the discussion to date. The research identified six distinct strategies used by GPs in their efforts to reduce PPI prescribing. Contrary to what GPs often assumed to be the case, patients were generally quite receptive to changes to their medication, provided they had the security of knowing that their original prescription would be restored if necessary. Most doctors assessed their rationing strategies as having some impact, but acknowledged the difficulties in achieving a significant and sustained reduction in PPIs. In the study sample nearly half of the patients who had experienced a prescribing switch or step down had drifted back to their former brand, and, especially, higher dose. However, far from being overly and unreflectively dependent on PPIs, patients were often keen to reduce their medicine taking to a minimum. A number of respondents had taken the initiative in experimenting to find the lowest effective dose of PPIs required to control their symptoms. GPs varied in their attitudes to this form of treatment self-management, but less than half actively encouraged patients to regulate their treatment in this way. Our findings suggest that there is considerable scope for encouraging patients to self-regulate with PPIs, and that many patients would be willing to do this if the practice was sanctioned by their doctors. The anticipated benefits of increased self-regulation include an overall reduction in PPI prescribing and associated costs, and an increase in patient autonomy and control which is in line with the concordance model of the ideal relationship between patients and doctors.


HuisartsengeneeskundeMaag-, Darm- en LeverziektenBehandeling medicatieBelemmerende en bevorderende factor



Pollock K1
Grime J