Pharmacists can drastically reduce patients worries about using steroids

For those people who suffer from eczema, the use of topical corticosteroids is high up on their list of concerns: How should they be used? And are they safe?

New research launched at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester shows that pharmacists can drastically reduce patients worries about using steroids by more than 50% when they intervene to address patients' needs and concerns.

The study, undertaken by Pharmacy Alliance, the Medicines Management Division of UniChem, investigated the contribution of community pharmacists in meeting the needs of patients with atomic eczema, in collaboration with GPs. In the UK, atopic eczema affects 15% of children(1,2) and up to 10% of adults(2). Treatment is often complex and confusing, and patients' concerns about using topical corticosteroids can often prevent them from treating their condition effectively.

In this new study 48 community pharmacies recruited 370 patients diagnosed with atopic eczema, and followed them up 8 weeks later. Patients' needs and concerns were assessed using a patient questionnaire. Patients were referred to their GP when their needs could not be met in the pharmacy.

The results showed that, following help and advice from a pharmacist, or pharmacy staff:

  • Steroid concerns reduced from 68% to 30%
  • Poor understanding of atopic eczema fell from 43% to 6%
  • The need for lifestyle advice dropped from 51% to 20%

The research also found that:

Community pharmacists identified a total of 1,597 problems. Of these:

  • 20% involved steroid concerns
  • 15% required lifestyle advice
  • 12% of patients had unmet treatment goals
  • 11% of patients had poor understanding of atopic eczema

Pharmacist Caroline Tinkler who led the study said that said that it is extremely important for patients to be appropriately educated about eczema and its treatment. "If patients are empowered they are able to make informed decisions about their eczema condition and self-management," she says.

"This study proves that many of the problems or concerns patients experience with eczema or its management, particularly around the use of topical corticosteroids, can be suitably addressed by community pharmacists."

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