Background: There are concerns that automated drug dispensing may increase inappropriate drug use. Automated dispensing could lead to perpetual repeating of drug therapies without the necessary re-evaluation.
Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a pharmacist-led medication review on drug-related problems (DRPs) in older patients receiving their drugs via automated dispensing.
Methods: This was a pragmatic randomized controlled study conducted in primary care. Patients were recruited from six Dutch community pharmacies. They were eligible if they lived at home, were aged ≥ 65 years, and used five or more different drugs, of which at least one had to be dispensed via an automated system. Patients were randomly allocated to receive a medication review at the start of the study (intervention group) or after 6 months (waiting-list group). Each patient was independently reviewed by two pharmacist reviewers. The results of these medication reviews were sent to the community pharmacist to be discussed with the patient's general practitioner (GP). The primary outcome measure was the number of DRPs leading to a recommendation for drug change. Secondary outcomes were the total number of drug changes and the number of drug changes related to a recommendation. In order to analyse drug changes, medication records were collected 6 months after the medication review or index date in the waiting-list group. Potential DRPs were classified using the DOCUMENT classification.
Results: There were no baseline differences between the 63 patients in the intervention group and the 55 patients in the waiting-list group with respect to age, sex, number of drugs per patient and type of drug prescribed. The mean number of DRPs per patient at baseline in the intervention group and waiting list combined was 8.5, with no difference between the groups. At baseline, the mean number of DRPs leading to a recommendation for drug change was 4.5 per patient and did not differ between the two groups. After 6 months, the number of DRPs leading to a recommendation for drug change decreased by 29% in the intervention group versus 5% in the waiting-list group (p < 0.01). Recommendations for cessation of a drug were more frequently accepted than recommendations to add a new drug (82% vs 44%, p = 0.01).
Conclusions: This study shows that patients using automated drug dispensing have a high number of DRPs. Medication review decreases the number of DRPs among these patients. We recommend that all patients with automatic drug dispensing should have a thorough medication review by pharmacists and prescribers.