RCSI research highlights the potential of community pharmacists

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The School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences has launched a research project to enhance understanding of how some higher risk medicines are used in Ireland.

The CDRx project, led by Dr Frank Moriarty and funded by the Health Research Board, uses HSE data on medications prescribed to medical card patients (with identifying information removed) to understand how trends in medications like opioids have changed in recent years, how policies can affect prescribing, and how use of medications varies between prescribers and geographical areas.

The project aims to generate evidence on policies and practices to support optimal use of these medications and reduce medication harm. This is particularly relevant as the World Health Organisation have set 'Medication Without Harm' as their Third Global Patient Safety Challenge.

This research highlights the importance of the community pharmacist in supporting the safe and effective use of medicines. There are almost 7,000 registered pharmacists in Ireland, nearly two thirds of whom work in community pharmacies. While pharmacists offer an increasing range of services, like vaccinations and emergency hormonal contraception, the safe supply of prescriptions, as well as advice and guidance, remain central to the role.

Pharmacists are responsible for clinically reviewing each prescription to ensure the medicines and doses are appropriate for the patient, locating and preparing the medicines, liaising with doctors as needed, and ensuring that the prescription is dispensed accurately and safely. This often comes with advice, providing information on what the medicines are for, how to take them and store them, what to watch out for, and how to avoid or manage side effects.

For community pharmacists, the goal is to ensure patients get as much benefit as possible from the prescribed medicine, and to reduce any risks. Pharmacists across all settings have this at the heart of their work, ranging from those providing clinical input in hospital on management of patients, to those working to discover and produce new medicines, or those working in research that focuses on developing new medicines or understanding how to use medicines more safely.

Ahead of World Pharmacists Day on 25 September, what can you do to help make sure you get the most out of your medicines? The HSE recommends that you 'Know Check Ask':

  • Know your medicines and keep a list
  • Check that you are using the right medicine the right way, and
  • Ask your healthcare professional if you’re unsure.

For more resources, visit the HSE website, or speak to your pharmacist to get information, advice or help with your medicines.