The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has called on commissioners to make better use of enhanced pharmacy services that address poor medicines adherence.

It is estimated that between 33% and 50% of patients do not take medicines for long-term illnesses as directed, resulting in a massive waste of medicines worth more than £100 million every year, not to mention the significant negative impact on patient health.

Medicines Use Reviews carried out by pharmacists offer a solid platform for tackling this problem, as they are designed to identify if patients are taking their medicines as prescribed as well as any side effects or potential drug interactions that might impact adherence.

Around 75% of pharmacies in England and Wales are now providing MURs, which were first launched in 2005, and while each is restricted to conducting 400 a year as an advanced service, primary care trusts may commission more as an enhanced service.

According to RPSGB Chief Executive Jeremy Holmes pharmacists are “ideally placed to support patients with information, advice and strategies to improve medicines adherence,” but, he said, “few primary care organisations are commissioning community pharmacy enhanced services, despite their obligation to implement clinical guidance from NICE on adherence”.

Speaking at an All-Party Pharmacy Group meeting yesterday, Holmes said: “A real opportunity to both improve patient care and drive more efficient use of NHS resources will be missed, unless PCOs focus on medicines adherence by building on the Medicines Use Reviews service and commissioning more enhanced services in this area”.

He went on to stress that particularly during the current tough financial climate, pharmacists could make “a real contribution to improving the effectiveness of NHS investment in medicines”, but not without high quality commissioning.

To that end, the Society has commissioned a new briefing document for PCTs to help give the provision of medicine adherence services through pharmacies a substantial boost, which, Homes said, is now nearing publication.