Fifteen Australian lives were saved in one month as a result of pharmacists intervening in medicine management

Fifteen Australian lives were saved in one month as a result of pharmacists intervening in medicine management, a study involving Monash University researchers into clinical pharmacy services in eight of the nation's teaching hospitals has found.

The study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, also revealed that 88 pharmacist interventions reduced the length of patient stays in hospital and 156 interventions reduced the potential for the patient to be readmitted to hospital.

Mr Michael Dooley, a senior lecturer in Monash's Department of Pharmacy Practice and director of pharmacy at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, led the study that was supported by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia. It focused on one clinical pharmacy activity: when a pharmacist proposed to a doctor a change to a patient's medicine management.

Mr Dooley said the changes were recommended by pharmacists in order to increase the effectiveness of medicines and to reduce potential adverse events. Some of the interventions involved a pharmacist identifying that although a doctor had prescribed the right drug, the dose was incorrect. Other common errors were doctors neglecting to prescribe drugs that the patient needed or prescribing drugs the patient didn't need.

With colleague Ms Kirsten Galbraith, also a senior lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy Practice, Mr Dooley and the study team tracked pharmacist interventions in relation to almost 25,000 patients over one month. In that time, pharmacist interventions prevented 11 admissions due to poisoning or toxic drug effects and nine admissions due to heart attack.

Mr Dooley said the study emphasised the importance of pharmacists in patient care. Preventing the deaths of 15 patients in one month at only eight hospitals equalled hundreds of patients a year in all of the nation's hospitals, he said.

"In financial terms, the study showed that for every dollar spent on a pharmacist for an intervention in medication management, the hospital saves $23," he said. "Over the four weeks of the study, the calculated savings were $263,221 for the eight hospitals. This included $150,307 for length-of-stay reduction and $111,848 for readmission reduction."

When extrapolated over a year, the interventions worked out at a saving to the eight hospitals of more than $4.4 million.

"The issue of medication treatment in hospitals is very complicated," Mr Dooley said. "It's very difficult for everyone involved in the prescribing, dispensing or administration of medication to get it right. That's where pharmacists play a role -- they can save lives, improve patient care and reduce the length of stay in hospital for many people."

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