Medication errors are an important cause of morbidity and mortality in primary care.
The aims of this study are to determine the effectiveness, cost effectiveness and acceptability of a pharmacist-led information-technology-based complex intervention compared with simple feedback in reducing proportions of patients at risk from potentially hazardous prescribing and medicines management in general (family) practice.
Research subject group: "At-risk" patients registered with computerised general practices in two geographical regions in England.
Design: Parallel group pragmatic cluster randomised trial.
Interventions: Practices will be randomised to either: (i) Computer-generated feedback; or (ii) Pharmacist-led intervention comprising of computer-generated feedback, educational outreach and dedicated support.
Primary outcome measures: The proportion of patients in each practice at six and 12 months post intervention:
- with a computer-recorded history of peptic ulcer being prescribed non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- with a computer-recorded diagnosis of asthma being prescribed beta-blockers
- aged 75 years and older receiving long-term prescriptions for angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or loop diuretics without a recorded assessment of renal function and electrolytes in the preceding 15 months.
Secondary outcome measures; These relate to a number of other examples of potentially hazardous prescribing and medicines management.
Economic analysis: An economic evaluation will be done of the cost per error avoided, from the perspective of the UK National Health Service (NHS), comparing the pharmacist-led intervention with simple feedback.
Qualitative analysis: A qualitative study will be conducted to explore the views and experiences of health care professionals and NHS managers concerning the interventions, and investigate possible reasons why the interventions prove effective, or conversely prove ineffective.
Sample size: 34 practices in each of the two treatment arms would provide at least 80% power (two-tailed alpha of 0.05) to demonstrate a 50% reduction in error rates for each of the three primary outcome measures in the pharmacist-led intervention arm compared with a 11% reduction in the simple feedback arm.
At the time of submission of this article, 72 general practices have been recruited (36 in each arm of the trial) and the interventions have been delivered. Analysis has not yet been undertaken.
Current controlled trials ISRCTN21785299