There is a huge opportunity to improve patient care in a cost-effective manner by getting the pharma industry more involved in medicines optimisation and measuring patient outcomes, was a key message from NHS experts addressing the Pharmacy Management seminar in London yesterday.

Peter Rowe, now a consultant but previously the Department of Health's national QIPP lead for medicines use and procurement, said there "had not been as much progress on medicines optimisation as hoped". 

Medicines optimisation, he said, is about more than just the price of a drug, it's about trying to unlock the most value for patients and society.

Highlighting the need to address the issue, Rowe noted that there will be twice as many 80 year olds in the next 50 years, but "we haven't yet worked out how we will deal with this demographic time bomb". 

And coupled with this rise in demand is the continued financial constraints of the austerity era. One clinical commissioning group is starting the financial year with an £18 million deficit, despite the PCT having started the prior year with a surplus, he said, stressing that "things are not looking good for this year".

"We must get to grips with medicines management" and "the NHS must work with pharma to better monitor patient outcomes", he said, which will ultimately enable better  - and more cost-effective - care.

Also stressing the need for "transcendental change", Charles Alessi, Chairman of the National Association of Primary Care, Interim Chairman of NHS Clinical Commissioners and Senior Advisor at Public Health England, noted that "we have a system where 50% of people with long-term conditions stop taking medicines within one year, but we glibly go on thinking that's alright".

Community pharmacy, he said, is in for exciting times: "Everyone knows community pharmacists are best placed to treat and manage long-term conditions - they are the most accessible of the healthcare professions".

Honest discussions with pharma

With regard to the pharma, he said that, if used correctly, a closer relationship "would be a good thing", and that the potential of working together should be leveraged "with honest discussions".

"The long-term relationship is what it is all about - people coming together in vehicles to offer end-to-end solutions," he told PharmaTimes UK News, but also noted that as the current business model is still working for pharma, "it will take a brave MD to change that model".

Andy Cooke, Head of Medicines Management at Bedfordshire CCG, also stressed the need for patient-orientated outcomes. 

While the NHS is good at diagnosis and prescribing, patients don't always get better, and this is something that can be addressed through medicines optimisation.

There is, he said, still scope to "make savings and improve quality", by prioritising across a patient pathway. Switching to generic statins, for example, could help pay for cardiac rehab for all relevant patients, he noted.

And Cooke, too, touched on the great opportunity for pharma to get involved, noting: "it would be useful to get support in getting patients to take their medicines".

Val Snow, Deputy Chief Pharmacist at Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, said medicines optimisation could also be improved " if we get better at stopping drugs at the end of the pathway". 

Voicing industry support, Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, told PharmaTimes that medicines optimisation is key to ensuring that patients get the right medicines at the right time.

"This approach promotes adherence to treatments, reduces waste in the healthcare system and helps to minimise harm to patients that may occur as a result of poor prescribing," he said, and added that, "above all, medicines optimisation, as opposed to medicines management, recognises we can raise levels of patient care in the NHS through investment in medicines”.

New CCG - healthcare provider event - don't miss out!

To provide a bridge between healthcare providers in the new NHS landscape, PharmaTimes and Visions4Health are hosting a special one-day event to bring together CCGs and NHS providers with qualified healthcare industry stakeholders, including pharmaceutical companies, telehealth/technology organisations, home healthcare organisations, diagnostics, devices and data providers.

On the day, the meeting will run in four parallel streams, with NHS partners outlining their partnership projects - across diverse areas such as medicines optimisation and patient education - before taking a Q&A and then linking with industry stakeholders. Click here if you want to know more.

The event is also being combined with the PharmaTimes Partnerships in Health competition and awards, which will recognise the best existing partnership projects - both current and in development - between the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS.