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Keywords:

  • medication review;
  • medicines use review;
  • pharmacists;
  • primary care

Recent years have seen a formalization of medication review by pharmacists in all settings of care. This article describes the different types of medication review provided in primary care in the UK National Health Service (NHS), summarizes the evidence of effectiveness and considers how such reviews might develop in the future. Medication review is, at heart, a diagnostic intervention which aims to identify problems for action by the prescriber, the clinican conducting the review, the patient or all three but can also be regarded as an educational intervention to support patient knowledge and adherence. There is good evidence that medication review improves process outcomes of prescribing including reduced polypharmacy, use of more appropriate medicines formulation and more appropriate choice of medicine. When ‘harder’ outcome measures have been included, such as hospitalizations or mortality in elderly patients, available evidence indicates that whilst interventions could improve knowledge and adherence they did not reduce mortality or hospital admissions with one study showing an increase in hospital admissions. Robust health economic studies of medication reviews remain rare. However a review of cost-effectiveness analyses of medication reviews found no studies in which the cost of the intervention was greater than the benefit. The value of medication reviews is now generally accepted despite lack of robust research evidence consistently demonstrating cost or clinical effectiveness compared with traditional care. Medication reviews can be more effectively deployed in the future by targeting, multi-professional involvement and paying greater attention to medicines which could be safely stopped.