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Avoiding Costly Medication Problems

Pharmacist-doctor communication reduces drug therapy problems, study finds

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

TUESDAY, Aug. 12, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- When pharmacists and doctors work together to monitor and maintain patients' drug therapies, they can reduce health-care costs and the risk of bad drug interactions.

That good news comes from a study published in the Aug. 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Using this collaborative-care approach, pharmacists trained in pharmaceutical care -- the practice of identifying, resolving and preventing drug therapy problems -- can safely solve patient medication problems, according to the study.

Conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy and Fairview Health Services, the study was the first to judge the quality of care delivered by pharmacists using the same quality-assurance process used by doctors.

"Not only did patients, pharmacists, physicians and other health-care providers work together to identify and resolve an average of 2.3 drug therapy problems per patient, but physicians agreed with more than 94 percent of all clinical decisions made by pharmacists to help patients achieve their treatment goals and resolve drug therapy problems," lead researcher Brian Isetts says in a news release.

In the study, there were 5,897 drug therapy problems that were resolved among 2,524 patients in Fairview's Pharmaceutical Care Program. Overall, the patients had an average of 6.5 medical conditions and each took an average of 8.2 medications.

The most common medication-related problems were a need for additional drug therapy, adjustment of incorrect doses, patient compliance with medication orders, adverse drug reactions and ineffective drug therapy.

The percentage of patients in the study who had the desired effect from their drug therapy increased from 74 percent during their initial visits to 89 percent at their latest visits. The study also found that, in many cases, pharmacists resolved drug therapy problems without the direct involvement of the patients' doctors.

The cost of drug therapy problems in the United States in 2000 was $177 billion, compared to $76 billion in 1995. Previous studies found drug costs and drug errors can be reduced when pharmacists work with doctors to resolve those issues.

More information

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SOURCE: University of Minnesota, news release, Aug. 11, 2003
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