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Medicine advice service helps prescribing effectiveness

New service improved adherence to medicines by 10%

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 14 August 2014

GPs who struggle to ensure that their patients take the medicine prescribed to them are being helped by an innovative new advice service provided by pharmacists, concludes an independent evaluation published today.

The New Medicine Service (NMS), a medicines advice service for patients, helps boost the number of patients actually taking the medicines prescribed to them by around 10%.

A team of researchers from the University of Nottingham and University College London carried out an evaluation – commissioned by the Department of Health – into the NMS.

The NMS is currently offered by 91% of community pharmacies in England and was launched in 2011 by the Department of Health with the aim of improving patients’ adherence to their medicines.

It is estimated that around a quarter of medicines prescribed for long-term conditions are not taken as directed, and 15% of people receiving new medicines take few, if any, doses.

Under the NMS, community pharmacists provide extra support for patients taking a new medicine for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, chronic lung problems and for medicines thinning the blood.

Participants are prescribed their medicines as normal with advice, but are then offered a consultation with the pharmacist two or three weeks later, either in person or over the phone.

In their report, Understanding and Appraising the New Medicines Service in the NHS in England, the researchers set out to evaluate whether or not the NMS helped improve patients’ adherence to medication, whether it provided value for money, how it was delivered and whether it could be improved.

A randomised controlled trial was carried out involving 46 pharmacies from across England and 504 patients.

It showed that 10 weeks after receiving the NMS consultations from their community pharmacists, 70.7% of patients who received the NMS took their medicine or had sought help from the prescriber, compared with 60.5% in the control group who received the normal service.

Using economic modeling, the researchers showed that the service could increase a patient’s length and quality of life while costing the NHS less, when compared with patients who did not receive the service.

Lead researcher, Professor Rachel Elliott from the University of Nottingham’s school of pharmacy, said: “Our research suggests that patients will ultimately be better off as a result of the NMS and patients who receive the service will cost the NHS less money in the long term.”

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, welcomed the findings, saying: “Patients have a lot to gain from the New Medicine Service – as this study shows.

“The RCGP has recently warned that half of all adults in England find the health advice given to them by doctors and health professionals too complicated, including instructions on how to take medication appropriately. So we are optimistic that this study shows the NMS to significantly increase patients’ adherence to their new medicine.

“The study also makes clear just how important it is for GPs and pharmacists to work closely together in the best interests of our patients.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) called for the NMS to be expanded and said the service could be improved by having better engagement with GPs and pharmacists having access to GP records.

Dr David Branford, chair of the RPS English board, said: “This service is benefitting patients through improved use of medicines as well as saving money through fewer hospital admissions.”

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