The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has attacked recent claims that medicines-use reviews by pharmacists are open to fraud.

The claims come in a report to government on the impact of incentives on the NHS, such as MURs and the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), which says its researchers have found that, while in some cases MUR targets were considered worthwhile and fulfilling, in others “they were depicted as cursory and/or bordering on fraudulent.”

Responding to the warnings, Alastair Buxton, head of NHS services at the PSNC, said: “at a time when the NHS is throwing away hundreds of millions of pounds a year on expensive drugs that go on to be wasted or incorrectly used, MURs play a crucial role in boosting patients’ adherence to medicines.”

55% of all medicines prescribed today are not used as directed, and as such are effectively wasted, but MURs bring patients into the decision_making process and establish them as partners in their own care, helping to tackle the confusion and isolation that sit at the root of non_adherence, said Mr Buxton. “On_the_ground research has clearly borne out MURs’ potential to drive up adherence, with 90% of patients in a recent study saying that MURs enhanced their knowledge about their medicines, and an overwhelming 83% rating the service good,” he pointed out.

Nevertheless, he acknowledged that there is work to be done to ensure the full potential of MURs is realised, and to that end the PSNC is working with the Department of Health and NHS Employers to ensure that reviews are better targeted, more effectively managed and seen as a route to improved clinical outcomes rather than an end in themselves.

“MURs are an essential cost_saving service that the NHS simply cannot do without. We need to develop the MUR, and ensure its full benefits are felt right across the NHS,” said Mr Buxton.

Gary Warner, a practicing pharmacist and Chair of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Pharmaceutical Committee, added: “you’d be surprised just how many medicines are wasted because patients are unsure whether they’re working or are confused about how and when to take them. Solving this expensive problem often only takes a simple conversation, but in today’s pressurised environment, other health care professionals seldom seem to have the time for this.

"I see every day how effective MURs can be in giving patients the knowledge, confidence and understanding to use their medicines correctly. When 93% of patients in a recent study said they were more confident to take or use their medicines, I don’t see how we can question their effectiveness in improving adherence and saving the NHS money.”