Pharmacists reduce hospital visits for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience 55% fewer hospital admissions and 50% less visits to accident and emergency departments when clinical pharmacists intervene in their care, research launched at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (BPC) in Manchester has shown.

Six months into a year-long study on a pharmacy-led disease and medicine management programme in patients with COPD (an umbrella term for serious respiratory diseases like emphysema), pharmacy researchers in Belfast have shown that the involvement of a clinical pharmacist improves patients' health-related quality of life and results in greater cost-effectiveness for the NHS.

Patients in the study group reported 81% adherence to medication regimes, compared to only 60% in the control group.

The study maintained a strong focus on self-management because COPD patients may benefit from the early intervention that comes from following self-management plans(1),(2), which may prevent a crisis and possibly the need for hospital admission.

Lead researcher, Maher Al-khdour, said: "This ongoing study indicates that a management programme led by clinical pharmacists can improve adherence, reduce the need for hospital care in patients with moderate to severe COPD and improve their quality of life."

Through a separate study investigating inhaler treatments for patients with asthma and COPD, John Moores University pharmacy researchers in Liverpool found that switching inhaler medicines could result in NHS savings of £5,100 a year. Two similar and equally effective inhalers are available - the newer Symbicort inhaler is not as well-known or prescribed as often as the Seratide inhaler, but is much cheaper.

Head researcher, Lewis Brien, said: "This study indicates considerable progress in the management of these chronic respiratory diseases. It also highlights the fact that more detailed clinical interventions can result in both health and cost benefits - a demonstration of the value and expertise of pharmacists."

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