Integrating pharmacists into general practice (GP) teams focused on treating patients with long- term medical needs can help optimize treatment and alleviate pressure on GP teams, according to new research. 

GPs frequently manage medications for patients with complex health conditions. This process can be increasingly difficult and complex as treatment evolves and if there are long standing prescriptions from previous physicians. New research by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) found that pharmacists are well placed to work collaboratively with GPs in order to decide the most appropriate treatment options. According to the press release, this practice has yet to be introduced in Ireland.  

The study was composed of 4 GP practices with approximately 35,000 patients. Over the course of 6 months, pharmacists were integrated into the practices and 786 patients with 1521 potential issues related to medication efficacy or adverse effect concerns were flagged. The most common medications involved were proton pump inhibitors, benzodiazepines, and anti-inflammatory drugs, according to the press release. 

"As demands on primary care increase, integrating pharmacists into GP practices has the potential to bring a more closely integrated model of care to patients with multiple complex needs. The best patient care in general practice includes multidisciplinary collaboration across healthcare professionals and I look forward to further studies in this area to explore the feasibility of introducing this practice in Ireland," professor of Primary Care Medicine at RCSI Susan Smith said in the press release. 

The research also saw a potential for savings. According to the press release, more than 50% of the issues identified resulted in changes by the patient’s GP. Changes included reducing the dose or ending the prescription all together if risks outweighed benefits. Over the 4 practices, potential cost savings amounted to approximately €57,000 ($64,037) each year. 

Reference:
Integrating pharmacists into general practice can optimize patient treatment (News Release); Dublin, Ireland; June 29, 2020; EurekAlert!; accessed June 29, 2020