A cost-benefit analysis of person-centred medicines reviews by general practice pharmacists in Ireland has suggested that they save hundreds in medicines costs and reducing adverse effects.

Speaking at the NHS Confed Expo conference last week, NHS England (NHSE) prescribing director Professor Tony Avery said the study 'provides a strong rationale for the benefits of pharmacist-led, person-centred medication reviews, which are embedded in a multidisciplinary collaborative approach'.

He added: 'I think this study is relevant to the English population because the intervention is similar to the structure of medication reviews that we're promoting in England; the populations are similar, including the focus on those at higher risk; intervention was delivered in the real world; and we have the pharmacy workforce in primary care to deliver structured medication reviews.'

The study, published last month in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, concluded that 'person-centred medicines reviews by general practice pharmacists for patients at high risk of medicines-related harm result in substantial cost savings'.

And it added that 'wider investment in general practice pharmacists' would be 'beneficial to minimise both patient harm and healthcare system expenditure'.

The study, based on 1,471 patients in Ireland – 88.4% of whom were prescribed 10 or more medicines – suggested that in medicines costs alone, a ‘substantial savings ratio’ of 246% (or €137,591 per annum) could be made.

And by avoiding hospital admissions related to adverse drug reactions, between €198 and €288 could be saved per patient review, adding up to between €73,317 and €177,696 per annum per pharmacist.

Analysis that considered the potential clinical significance of interventions made due to medicines reviews found that net cost savings of €651–€741 per review could be made, with corresponding annual savings of €240,870–€457,197 per annum per pharmacist.

‘This study provides clear evidence of the economic benefits of pharmacist-delivered person-centred reviews in general practices in Ireland,’ the authors concluded, highlighting particular benefit for patients with hyperpolypharmacy and/or at high risk of medicines-related harm.

And they suggested that the study ‘provides economic justification’ for implementing practice-based pharmacists on a wider scale in Ireland and piloting in other countries.

Graham Stretch, president of the UK-wide Primary Care Pharmacy Association (PCPA) said the 'very well-constructed' study was conducted in the Republic of Ireland in practices close to the border with Northern Ireland.

'If anything, pharmacists in the UK would likely have a greater impact due to their longer-standing activity and training infrastructure, prescribing scopes and support networks than in Ireland.

'I feel this study... is applicable to the UK and demonstrates the return on investment made in pharmacy professionals in general practices and primary care networks,' he told The Pharmacist.