FRIDAY, Aug. 21, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- If doctors and pharmacists work together to ensure that people with heart failure take their medicines correctly, hospitalizations would be less frequent, an Australian study suggests.
In a study of 5,717 people with heart failure, the hospitalization rate for the 273 who had their medications reviewed by doctors and pharmacists was 45 percent lower than the hospitalization rate for the others, whose medicines did not undergo a collaborative review.
People in the study averaged about 82 years old. Those who had their medicines reviewed were slightly sicker and, on average, had more health problems in addition to heart failure than the others -- eight vs. seven.
During a year-long follow-up, 5.5 percent of the people in the medication-review group were hospitalized, compared with 12 percent of those in the no-review group.
The study appears online Aug. 18 in Circulation: Heart Failure.
As part of the review, pharmacists visited the participants at home and asked to see all of their prescription and non-prescription drugs. The pharmacists looked for such signs of possible medication misuse as under-dosing, overdosing and hoarding of unneeded medications from previous prescriptions, which can increase the risk of accidentally taking the wrong medicine. They also looked for over-the-counter medications and vitamins that could interact with prescription drugs.
After reviewing the medications, the pharmacist prepared a report for the person's doctor, who followed up if needed.
A collaborative review system comparable to the one followed in the study has been available in Australia since 2001.
"This is the first study to show these benefits in real-world practice, rather than in a trial setting," the study's lead author, Elizabeth E. Roughead, a pharmacist and associate professor in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.
"Poor use of medications can increase costs enormously," she added. "This study indicates that investing in improvements in medication management can result in more cost-effective health care."
The American Heart Association has more about medications for heart failure.