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Pharmacist medication reviews are a 'waste of money'

By Georgie Hobbs

Employing pharmacists to review patients' medication is a waste of time and money and does nothing to reduce hospital admissions, researchers conclude.

The introduction of pharmacist medication reviews also had no effect on mortality or any other concrete benefits over standard GP care.

The analysis of 32 existing studies did find pharmacist reviews improved adherence and patient knowledge about their illness and treatment. But of 12 studies that questioned patients' quality of life following the reviews, eight found no improvement.

Study leader Dr Yoon Looke, senior lecturer in clinical pharmacology at the University of East Anglia, said the apparent improvements in patient knowledge were worthless without reductions in mortality.

He added: 'Over the past year the NHS has spent a lot of money encouraging pharmacists to provide medication reviews but this study shows that using pharmacists for this purpose doesn't improve on what GPs are already doing.

‘Is it worth the time and trouble [when] there is no clear benefit? It neither saves the NHS money nor spares hospital beds.'

The study, published online by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, examined the effects of pharmacist reviews on 10,000 patients with a mean age of 60, using 32 studies dating from 1999 to 2005.

Dr Barry Moyse, vice-chairman for Somerset LMC and a GP in a dispensing practice in Taunton said: ‘It's silly to invest money in a process and then find that it doesn't make any difference. There are feelings that people are being forced down a particular pathway not to improve care but to save money. Of course, it doesn't save money at all – that's the joke.'

Dr Bill Beeby, chair of the GPC prescribing subcommittee said: ‘Doctors in general would appear to be prescribing very responsibly, and the scope for pharmacists to pick up problems with prescribing - such as side-effects – is quite limited.

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