OBJECTIVE: To investigate actual cost and adverse effect outcomes associated with a pharmacotherapy consultation in ambulatory care patients receiving polypharmacy. METHODS: Patients receiving five or more chronic medications were randomized to receive pharmacotherapy consultation or usual medical care. Outcomes measured were changes in drug costs, medical costs, and drug-related symptoms six months after the consultation. Data were analyzed with unpaired Student's t-test for continuous data. chi (2) Analysis was used for categorical data, Patients and physicians were surveyed about their perceptions of the consultations after the study period. RESULTS: Drug and medical costs did not differ before and after the consultation. More patients in the consultation group had adverse symptom scores improve by two or more points, and fewer had symptom scores worsen by two or more points than in the control group. Seventy percent of patients and 76% of physicians believed that the consult was beneficial. CONCLUSIONS: Polypharmacy patients are the most likely to have drug-related problems and require intervention. Of all the interventions performed in this study, 73% of the original problems were recognized only through a patient interview, suggesting that an interpersonal relationship remains critical to the provision of pharmaceutical care. Although patients and physicians see intuitive value in pharmaceutical care, pharmacists need to exert more energy in the direction of marketing the profession. Finally, there are numerous difficulties in measuring the benefits of these interventions, possibly making broad-based interventions in complicated patients too difficult to assess accurately. Future studies should focus on patients with limited, specific problems or on interventions with narrow goals.
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