Pharmacy Based New Medicine Service would improve COPD patient outcomes

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has called for the introduction of a New Medicine Service in community pharmacies nationwide, similar to the proven service already available to patients with chronic illness in other countries. Speaking to mark World COPD Day the IPU has said that such a service could significantly improve the outcomes for patients newly diagnosed with COPD and a range of other conditions.

The New Medicine Service involves a structured pharmacist-led intervention, delivered within the community pharmacy setting, consisting of advice and support for patients prescribed medicines for a specific chronic disease. A successful pilot conducted in Ireland found a 9% improvement in optimal adherence to treatment plans.

A New Medicine Service operates in many other countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway. In addition to COPD, it can assist patients who have been newly prescribed medicines for certain long-term conditions or therapies such as asthma, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and chronic pain.

Speaking about World COPD Day, Kathy Maher, community pharmacist and former IPU President, said “COPD is an umbrella term that describes a series of progressive lung diseases. They are associated with it being difficult to empty air out of the lungs due to the airways being narrower than normal, leading to airflow obstruction and difficulty breathing. It is estimated that as many as 500,000 people in Ireland may suffer from COPD and it is known to be Ireland’s fourth biggest cause of death after lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.”

Ms Maher continued, “A condition as common as COPD should, where possible, be treated outside of the hospital setting. That is why it would often be an ideal case for a pharmacy led New Medicine Service. This would allow the pharmacist to monitor a patient, ensure they were taking medications as directed and identify any challenges with a new treatment.

“Economic analysis of a similar service which has operated in the UK since 2011 found that it offers the NHS increased health gain at reduced overall cost, and provides short-term savings of £75.4 million and long-term savings of £517.6 million.”

Ms Maher concluded, “The IPU is calling for the nationwide rollout of a New Medicines Service to be announced and implemented without delay.”