A review shows that pharmacists play a very useful role in managing heart failure. Their involvement reduces the risk of hospitalisation which both improves patient quality of life and reduces the public health burden of heart failure.
Medications for heart failure include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta-blockers. The problem is that these are under-used. A multi-disciplinary approach, including input from a pharmacist, could perhaps improve outcomes for the patient with heart failure. Researchers at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, have looked back at research on heart failure that has involved input from a pharmacist.
The researchers found 12 studies covering over 2,000 patients with heart failure where care given by a pharmacist was compared with usual care. In seven studies, the pharmacist was the key person, helping with medication, education, adherence, and communication with the physician. In other studies, the pharmacist was part of a team looking after the patient with heart failure. The team analyzed whether involvement of the pharmacist reduced mortality and hospitalisation for both all causes and for heart failure.
There was no overall reduction in mortality with pharmacist intervention. But there was a significant reduction in hospitalisation rates, by around one third, both overall and for heart failure if the pharmacist was involved.
Heart failure is one of the leading causes of hospitalisation. These hospitalisations are, the researchers say, too often attributed to problems with medication. Therefore, more input from the pharmacist, who is the one who knows most about medication, might be expected to decrease the risk of hospitalisation.
It is also not clear from the current study what kind of pharmacist intervention makes the most difference when it comes to looking after patients with heart failure. But the finding that their work can reduce hospitalizations by one third underlines the key role medication plays in managing heart failure. Therefore, a pharmacist should always be involved in caring for the patient with heart failure.