Pharmacy-led atrial fibrillation (AF) reviews have saved the NHS millions, figures from a stroke charity have revealed.

The Stroke Association estimated that a pharmacist-led review of patients with AF produced NHS savings of over £82m in its first year, it said on Friday (23 March).

The ongoing review of 282,000 AF patients – which started in 2013 – was carried out by a team of pharmacists from independent clinical service provider Interface Clinical Services.

The review looked at factors including whether patients needed anticoagulants, their medication changing or referral to secondary care.

Cost of stroke

Interface Clinical Services chief executive officer Mike Drakard said: ‘According to the Stroke Association’s latest report, the cost of treating a stroke in the first 12 months is now £45,409 while each subsequent year is estimated at £24,778 for rehabilitation and community support.

‘We can therefore conservatively estimate a saving of almost £82m for the NHS, taking into account the initial 12 months alone without considering the huge follow on costs, which can continue for many years.’

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) estimated that pharmacists’ intervention has helped prevent more than 1,800 strokes and hundreds of deaths.

AF increases the risk of having a stroke by up to five times, according to the Stroke Association.

Preventable strokes

NICE's director of clinical practice Professor Mark Baker argued that ‘around 7,000 strokes and 2,000 premature deaths could be avoided every year through effective detection and protection with anticoagulant drugs’.

He said: ‘Unfortunately, only half of those who should be getting these drugs, are.

‘This needs to change if we are to reduce the numbers of people with AF who die needlessly or suffer life changing disability as a result of avoidable strokes.’