Let pharmacists take the lead: PSA


Patients are often overwhelmed by medications, especially when they leave the hospital. EM Karuna/shutterstock.com

This week’s report into polypharmacy highlights the need for regular medicine reviews for older Australians — a task best performed by pharmacists, says the PSA

The report, from the University of Western Australia and University of New South Wales and led by pharmacist Dr Amy Page, found a 52% increase in the number of people taking at least five medicines between 2006 and 2017, rising to 935,240 people in 2017.

Dr Page told the AJP this week that “Pharmacists are in a good position to see all the medications that people take – private scripts, PBS scripts, OTC medications, vitamins, minerals and herbs. 

“These all contribute to the overall medication use. We need to be supporting people to make appropriate decisions about non-prescription medications.”

The report included only PBS-subsidised medicines, not including OTCs, vitamins, supplements and other complementary medicines, or prescription medicines not PBS subsidised.

PSA National President Dr Chris Freeman said the report highlights the need for pharmacists to have greater involvement in medicine management. 

“As the report states, older people are likely to be using several medicines at once, which places them at greater risk of medicine-related harm,” Dr Freeman said.

“It is therefore vital that all people taking multiple medicines have regular medicine reviews with the added ability for the pharmacist to follow up with the patient as clinically indicated.

“Pharmacists, with their unique expertise in medicines and medicine management, are the best placed to conduct these reviews to identify and resolve any issues.”

PSA’s Medicine Safety: Take Care report, released earlier this year, showed that one in five people are suffering an adverse medicine reaction at the time they receive a Home Medicines Review and 1.2 million Australians had experienced an adverse medicine event in the last six months.

In addition, almost one in four older people prescribed medicines cleared by the kidneys are prescribed an excessive dose. 

In 2017 the World Health Organization launched a global initiative to reduce severe, avoidable medicine-associated harm in all countries by 50% over the next five years. WHO identified three medicine safety areas for commitment, early action and effective management: high-risk situations, polypharmacy and transitions of care.

For Australia to address these issues, Dr Freeman says the pharmacy profession must be given the authority take the lead. 

“The evidence is clear, pharmacists have significant potential to reduce the number of medicine-related hospital admissions and adverse medicine events in Australia but are prevented from doing so due to barriers in how medicine reviews are funded and the program rules governing their delivery,” he said.

  “It is PSA’s firm view that pharmacists must be more involved in the care of patients whenever medicines are part of their health management plan, and particularly in the context of chronic disease management.

“Access to additional funding models, such as the Medicare Benefits Schedule, will ensure pharmacists can fulfil this vital role in Australia’s healthcare system.

“PSA and the pharmacy profession stand ready to work with government and consumers to ensure medicine safety is addressed for the benefit of all Australians.”

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