Researchers in The Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review to evaluate the effect of using pharmacists to provide services other than medicine dispensing in low- and middle-income countries. After searching for all relevant studies, they found 12 studies that met their requirements. Their findings are summarised below.
The use of pharmacists to provide services other than dispensing medication
Traditionally, the main role of the pharmacist has been to prepare and dispense medicines. Recently, however, the number of tasks that are expected of them has grown.They are now often expected to make sure that patients use their medicines properly, help patients solve medicine-related problems and to give health information that can help patients improve their health.
All of the studies in this review took place in middle income countries, either at outpatient departments, community pharmacies or primary healthcare centres.
In 11 of the studies, pharmacists gave education and counselling to patients with chronic illnesses such as asthma and diabetes. Pharmacists gave the patients information about how to use their medicines properly and about possible side effects of the medicines, and helped them to identify and solve problems with their medicines. They also gave the patients information about the disease and advice about self-management and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The patients who were given these services were compared to patients who were given the usual pharmacist services without education or counselling.
In one study, pharmacists gave education to general practitioners (GPs) about care of children with asthma. These GPs were compared to GPs who were given usual pharmacist services.
No studies were found where pharmacist-provided services were compared to the services provided by other health workers.
What happens when pharmacists provide services other than dispensing medication?
When pharmacists give education and counselling to patients with chronic illnesses:
· patients may experience small improvements in health outcomes such as blood pressure levels and glucose levels (low quality evidence),
· patients may use health services less (for instance fewer visits to the doctor, fewer stays in hospital) (low quality evidence),
· patients probably experience small improvements in quality of life (moderate quality evidence),
· patients’ medication costs may be lower (low quality evidence).
When pharmacists give education and counselling about asthma care to GPs:
· their patients may experience slightly fewer asthma symptoms (low quality evidence).