Artificial intelligence (AI) could be ‘incredibly useful’ to monitor polypharmacy, pharmacy minister Dame Andrea Leadsom has said.

Speaking as part of the Health and Social Care Committee's pharmacy inquiry, Dame Andrea suggested using AI during medicine reviews could help ensure health professionals are not 'overloading somebody unnecessarily' with medications.

From ‘talking to GPs’, she said she had found that many family doctors ‘worry about the number of medicines that people are taking, particularly with an ageing population’ – as well as the drug interactions and possible side effects that come with polypharmacy.

‘I think AI could actually be incredibly useful there,’ she added.

‘I was talking to some GPs recently who were saying: "the trouble is you give someone a drug and then you give them a drug to offset the side effects of that drug … and before you know it, they've got a cocktail of drugs, and actually, sometimes, sight is lost of quite how many drugs people are supposedly taking",’ she said.

And she added that a patient choosing not to take some of their medications was ‘a potential disaster’.

As a solution to this issue, the pharmacy minister suggested that AI could have ‘a really important role in a sort of constant drug review, medicines review… to just try and make sure that you're not actually just overloading somebody unnecessarily [with medications]’.

Also speculating on the potential future role of technology in pharmacy, chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England David Webb suggested that ‘a very exciting’ future was in store when AI was coupled with automation and digital systems.

‘Once you encode information within a digital system, you create a rich environment for processes like AI to interrogate the data and look for patterns within,’ Mr Webb said.

He highlighted the difference between ‘decision support’ tools and AI that can ‘crawl through the data and identify patterns for the future’.

And he suggested that AI could be ‘part of the future’ when applied to data such as pharmacies’ dispensing records.

In ‘the new era’, AI and genomics could be used to predict patients’ response to medicines, Mr Webb added.

‘When you couple that sort of intelligence aspect with the automation and the digital systems that underpin it, I think we are on the verge of something transformative,’ he said.

The government plans to consider how medical technology regulators will need to respond to new AI technologies, it said recently in a response to an independent review into equity in medical devices.