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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

General News

Aston research gives insights into medicines adherence problems

As many as one quarter to a third of Birmingham patients with dyslipidaemia, type 2 diabetes or hypothyroidism may not be adherent to their long-term medication, a large-scale study carried out by researchers from Aston Pharmacy School has found.

The study covered patients living in the Heart of Birmingham, looking at more than one million anonymised individual prescription issues, more than 7,000 patient questionnaires and comments from seven focus groups to examine the extent of non-adherence and the reasons for it.

The research, which was funded by Heart of Birmingham teaching PCT, identified “an array of issues and barriers faced by patients on long-term medication” including: 

  • Fears about side-effects;
  • The need for better communication and information about medicines;
  • The presence or absence of symptoms affecting medication-taking behaviour;
  • Constant changes in generic forms of a medication decreasing trust in pharmacists. 

The researchers also identified groups of patients who would be most likely to benefit from targeted support to help them take their medicines as prescribed. These included patients under the age of 60 years; patients of Asian, African, Caribbean or other black origin; patients of Islamic faith or whose primary language is Urdu or Bengali; and those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas.

Recommendations set out in the report included:

  • A review of currently recorded dosage information in general practice to help enable the identification of patients with adherence problems;
  • Further research into the patient demographics of GP surgeries identified as having low overall adherence scores to understand the specific barriers faced by their patients;
  • Consideration of the use of validated questionnaires within healthcare locations such as community pharmacies where adherence problems are suspected;
  • The role of pharmacists in the management of long-term medication should be enhanced to support GPs in the management of patient therapy.

More information on the Aston Medication Adherence Study is available here.

Alastair Buxton, PSNC Head of NHS Services, said:

“These results from Aston provide yet more confirmation that non-adherence is having a significant impact on many patients and on the NHS. They also show us how complex the situation is, with patients citing a whole range of reasons for not taking their medicines.

The researchers recommend that pharmacists should have an enhanced role in managing patients on long-term medication, and the New Medicine Service (NMS) and MURs are obvious good examples of how community pharmacists can do this.

Evidence obtained from PharmOutcomes last year showed that pharmacists can make a real difference to medicines adherence through the NMS, and PSNC is working to ensure that this and the other benefits that pharmacy services can bring in medicines optimisation are recognised and rewarded by the NHS.”

Posted 18 February 2013

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