Medicines optimisation: a review of 2021

Dr Anna Murphy and Darush Attar-Zadeh, Co-Chairs of our medicines optimisation working group, look back over the previous year and the developments achieved around improving the management and treatment of lung disease.

Co-chairs of the Taskforce for Lung Health medicines optimisation working group:

  • Dr Anna Murphy, Consultant Pharmacist, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • Darush Attar-Zadeh, Community Pharmacist, Primary Care Respiratory Society

It has been a difficult year for patients, many of whom have struggled to receive the support they need to manage their treatment of lung disease appropriately. The pandemic has continued to interrupt healthcare services ability to deliver annual checks and inhaler technique training, as borne out in the worrying results of the Taskforce’s new survey of patients’ experiences of inhaler technique checks. COVID-19 modifications to services have also seen a switch to remote checks and in response we have published our recommendations for when and how these remote reviews should be used.

However, against this backdrop, there have been some important developments towards achieving our ambitions to improve the use of medicines. In particular, this year has seen NHS England take up our concerns regarding the over-prescribing of short-acting beta-2 agonist (SABA) e.g. salbutamol inhalers in people with asthma. We are pleased that our analysis of the problem has been included in NHS England’s information packs that have been sent out to local areas pressing them to take action.

We have also made a strong case for an enhanced role for community pharmacists in supporting patients to have the right technique when using inhalers. This has seen us recently establish a Taskforce subgroup to drive forward this work in 2022. We are disappointed that incentive payments for pharmacists to undertake inhaler technique checks were not made part of the Pharmacy Quality Standard (PQS), part of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF), except when done as part of the more limited New Medicines Service (NMS), and we will continue to push for inhaler technique optimisation to be included.

There has been good news from NICE with regards to improved access to ninetdanib for progressive fibrising ILD patients and dupilumab for people with severe asthma and we hope that in 2022 there will also be changes to the eligibility for antifibrotics for treating idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Read our three years on report here

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20 January 2022