A lack of understanding about medicines seems to be a crucial barrier to treatment adherence, prompting calls to reinforce the role of pharmacists in medicines optimisation and increase the availability of more tailored information for patients.

According to the results of a Pfizer survey, which polled 1,500 members of the public, 74% of respondents said they would be more likely to take their medicines as prescribed if they understood more about them.

And yet, many did not know about the wide range of medicines advice and support widely available in high street pharmacies.

Commenting on the results, Rob Horne, Professor of Behavioural Medicine, University College London (UCL) School of Pharmacy, who helped develop the survey, said they confirm other data that patients do experience difficulties in following treatment recommendations. 

"This highlights the need for tailored information that addresses patients’ individual perceptual and practical barriers to medicines adherence and with a pharmacy on every high-street, pharmacy teams are well placed to contribute to this," he said.

Howard Duff, RPS Director for England, agrees. He told PharmaTimes World News that "local pharmacists can really help by providing advice tailored to individual need as well as structured discussion through the New Medicine Service and Medicines Use Reviews". 

"Medicines optimisation is integral to the way pharmacists practice and it helps patients stay well, stay out of their GP surgery and get on with their lives," he stressed.

The survey's findings were released alongside an announcement that Pfizer is extending its medicines optimisation public awareness campaign for 2013.

Raising awareness

This aims to raise public awareness on the importance of treatment optimisation - i.e. taking medicines as prescribed, thereby helping to improve long-term health outcomes and ensuring better value for the NHS - and encourage patients to take advantage of the pharmacy services and expertise available.

Explaining the rationale of its campaign, a Pfizer spokesperson told PT that the company believes one of its responsibilities is "to support pharmacy teams in optimising medicines use and improving patient outcomes by sharing the significant knowledge and information it has accumulated over many years of developing and producing medicines". 

"Pfizer has chosen to support pharmacy teams with this particular campaign in recognition of their expert knowledge of medicines, the unique relationship they have with patients and the pivotal role community pharmacy has to play in medicines optimisation: able to offer expert advice at the point of contact where medicines are dispensed ensuring patients are supported in getting the best from their medicines and improving their long-term health," she stressed.