Canberra study on embedded pharmacists kicks off

aged care elderly pharmacy pharmacist medication medicine pills blister pack

A randomised controlled study looking at the impact of on-site pharmacists on quality use of medications in aged care is currently underway

Following on from a pilot study which finished in 2017, researchers from the University of Canberra are now conducting a three-year randomised control study looking at the effectiveness of having on-site pharmacists on a range of Quality Use of Medications indicators.

The Integrating Pharmacists in Residential Aged Care Facilities study (Pharmacists in RACF study), now underway in the ACT, is being conducted by Professor Rachel Davey, Associate Professor Sam Kosari and Professor Mark Naunton.

As part of the study, on-site pharmacists will work in facilities for two or two-and-a-half days a week.

They will work collaboratively with residents and their families, staff and GPs and prescribers to reduce use of inappropriate medications.

Secondary outcomes of the study include reducing emergency department and hospital visits, falls and medication incidents.

While the pilot study was funded by aged care provider Goodwin, this larger study is being funded by the Capital Health Network through the ACT’s Primary Health Program.

Professor Davey said: “With this grant, we can look at ways to reduce medication-related harms identified in the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

“The evidence shows that improved medication management leads to reduced hospitalisations,” she said.

“People living in aged care tend to be taking a large number of medicines. So we are hoping having an on-site pharmacist can improve communication between residents and staff about medicines, and make any changes needed in a timely way.”

The findings, which will include a cost-effectiveness evaluation, will help policy makers in considering the benefits of expanding pharmacy roles into aged care.

The randomised controlled trial commenced in March 2020 and will end in December 2021, with a second phase and post analysis to continue to 2023. 

Associate Professor Kosari and Professor Naunton, who are academic pharmacists, are strong advocates for the recent government listing of medicine use as a national priority, particularly in vulnerable populations such as the elderly.

They argue that it is time to include pharmacists in any healthcare setting that deals with medications, to optimise medicine effectiveness, minimise risk, and open future opportunities for the pharmacy profession.

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