Clinical Pharmacists Could be the Answer to Reducing Medication Harm While recent published research has shone light on the problem of medicine-related harm, some  innovative pharmacy programmes are helping find a solution. Medwise, a Tauranga-based group of pharmacists, go in to patients’ homes and check the medicines they are taking to ensure they are correct and being taken appropriately.Clinical Pharmacist with Medwise, Pauline McQuoid, said medications are an essential component of medical care but they can also cause harm and it is a positive development that we are now talking about the problem. “Medication harm is difficult to identify and often goes unnoticed until it causes obvious problems. We have found medication errors in about one out of every five medication reviews that we have carried out over the past nine years. “GPs have many demands on their time and they are under so much pressure. It’s difficult for them to find the time to carry out medication reviews.  So part of the solution could be to make better use of clinical pharmacists, who are medication experts and can focus on getting the right combination and the most suitable doses of medications as intended by the GPs.” In the UK, in response to the national GP shortage, the National Health Service is employing clinical pharmacists and pharmacist prescribers in medical centres to help GPs manage medications. Ms McQuoid said clinical pharmacists are an under-utilised resource within the health sector.  “With the looming GP shortage in New Zealand, it makes complete sense to use this highly capable workforce of clinical pharmacists to ensure we are getting the maximum benefit from medicines with an equal focus on reducing harm.”A study of medication harm in New Zealand hospitals published in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal found that 28% of patients admitted to hospital experience medication-related harm.  Sixty-one percent of these harms were minor but 4% were serious and resulted in permanent harm, death or required intervention to sustain life. Three out of ten medication harms occurred in the community and caused hospital admission. Some general practices in New Zealand are using clinical pharmacists and pharmacist prescribers to carry out medication reviews, which is taking pressure off the GPs and helping patients. This approach has been studied in Hawkes Bay and achieved a significant reduction in falls as well as improvements in diabetes and high blood pressure.

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