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UC study shows on-site pharmacists in residential aged care facilities improve medicine management

Kailey Tonini

23 February 2023: Findings from the University of Canberra’s Pharmacists in Residential Aged Care Facilities trial were released yesterday, which show that having an on-site pharmacist in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) improved medicine management quality and safety.

Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Chief Investigator Sam Kosari said that having an on-site pharmacist resulted in a reduction in the number of residents taking potentially inappropriate medicines.

“We know that about one in five residents have an unplanned hospital admission due to taking a potentially inappropriate medicine. So we were pleased to see that having an on-site pharmacist conducting medication reviews actually reduced the prescription of potentially inappropriate medicines. The on-site pharmacist also assisted in upskilling RACF staff in medication knowledge and improved communication within the care team,” Dr Kosari said.

“The trial also demonstrated that having an onsite-pharmacist resulted in a reduction of anticholinergic drug burden, which is associated with an increased risk of falls, delirium and cognitive decline. We also saw a reduction in the dose of antipsychotic medicines prescribed for residents,” he said.

The findings demonstrate that the likelihood of a resident being prescribed one or more potentially inappropriate medicines was significantly reduced in aged care facilities with an on-site pharmacist, as compared to facilities without one.

The first stage of the trial involved more than 1600 residents in 15 RACFs in the ACT, with a pharmacist being employed by seven of the facilities, while the remaining eight formed the control group. In the second stage of the trial, looking at broader implementation, a further 13 facilities participated.

The trial was commissioned by Capital Health Network (CHN) and funded by the national Primary Health Networks (PHNs). Recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety delivered in 2021, and evidence from the study, resulted in the Department of Health and Aged Care announcing a $345.7 million investment to improve medication management and safety for aged care.

The study builds upon a pilot study conducted by the University of Canberra in 2017. Find the full report on CHN’s website.