Medication misadventure


“I don’t know why I need to be on all these”: study reveals patient medicine confusion

A new Australian study has highlighted the vital role played by pharmacists, especially non-dispensing pharmacists, in identifying overprescribing and reviewing medication.

A series of detailed interviews with 40 elderly Australians (average age 76.7 years) revealed they were taking an average of 7.33 medications each, both OTC and prescription. One in five (21%) also admitted to concurrent use of herbal preparations, vitamin supplements or other OTC medicines.

There were concerning findings around their medication knowledge, with only 17% aware of interactions between their medicines. Just over 37% of the respondents said their GP had not discussed possible side effects of medications with them and many expressed concern at the lack of communication between GPs and specialists.

However 82% said their pharmacist discussed side effects with them, either at initiation, regularly or when asked.

Many of the patients also expressed concerns about overprescribing. 

“I am sometimes apprehensive to tell my doctor about a small side-effect because I don’t want to take another medication,” one patient said.

“I don’t know why I need to be on all of these [medicines],” another said. “I often ask the doctor if I can stop taking some of them.” 

The authors say the findings highlight the need for non-dispensing pharmacies as a way to overcome issues around fragmented communication between healthcare professionals.

“Patients noted that fragmented communication may result in prescribers only managing the condition within their specialised area,” they said.

“Hence it becomes vital for pharmacists to highlight the use of multiple medicines and collaborate with prescribers to review medicines”.

“These concerns could be overcome by implementing non-dispensing pharmacists in community pharmacies to enable more opportunities to better address patients’ needs”, they said, quoting previous findings that demonstrated “pharmacist led interventions providing beneficial patient and health professional outcomes”.

One respondent did express confusion about the plethora of products often available in pharmacies, saying “Each pharmacy has different brands and the boxes and colours of
tablets always change. . .it’s very confusing and I don’t really know which tablets are what.”

“Both inter-prescriber communication and adequate patient education are vital in reducing the likelihood of adverse events,” concluded the authors.

The study was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice

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