Introduction: Drug related problems (DRPs) are perceived to occur frequently when patients are discharged from the hospital. Community pharmacists' interventions to detect, prevent and solve DRPs in this population are scarcely studied.
Objective: To examine the nature and frequency of DRPs in community pharmacies among patients discharged from hospitals in several countries, and to examine several variables related to these drug related problems.
Method: The study was performed in 112 community pharmacies in Europe: Austria, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Community pharmacists asked patients with a prescription after discharge from hospital between February and April 2001 to participate in the study. A patient questionnaire was used to identify drug related problems. Pharmacists documented drug related problems, pharmacy interventions, type of prescriber and patient and pharmacy variables.
Results: 435 patients were included in the study. Drug related problems were identified in 277 patients (63.7%). Uncertainty or lack of knowledge about the aim or function of the drug (133; 29.5%) and side effects (105; 23.3%) were the most common DRPs. Practical problems were reported 56 times (12.4%) by patients. Pharmacists revealed 108 problems (24.0%) concerning dosage, drug duplication, drug interactions and prescribing errors. Patients with more changes in their drug regimens (drugs being stopped, new drugs started or dosage modifications) and using more drugs were more likely to develop DRPs. Community pharmacists recorded 305 interventions in 205 patients with DRPs. Pharmacists intervened mostly by patient medication counselling (39.0%) and practical instruction to the patient (17.7%). In 26.2% the intervention was directed towards the prescriber. In 28 cases (9.2%) the pharmacists' intervention led to a change of the drug regimen.
Conclusion: This study shows that a systematic intervention by community pharmacists in discharged patients, or their proxies, is able to reveal a high number of DRPs that might be relevant for patient health outcomes. There should be more initiatives to insure continuity of care, since DRPs after discharge from hospital seem to be very common.