Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of guidelines with or without one-to-one educational outreach visits by community pharmacists in improving general practice prescribing for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Methods: Cluster randomised trial of 20 general practices within Avon, England. Practices were randomised to three groups: control; mailed guidelines; mailed guidelines plus educational outreach visits. General practitioners (GPs) in the latter group received two one-to-one outreach visits from community pharmacists. Changes in prescribing were measured using outcomes derived from prescribing analysis and cost (PACT) data. The primary outcome measure was change in the volume of prescribing for ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen as a percentage of total NSAID prescribing. Six secondary outcomes included other measures of prescribing quality and volume. A cost-benefit analysis was performed. Results: No significant differences were observed for the primary outcome measure: practices receiving outreach visits prescribed only 2.1% [95% confidence interval (CI): -0.8 to 5.0] more of the three recommended NSAIDs than the control practices did and 1.6% (95% CI: -1.4 to 4.7) more than practices that received guidelines only. Following adjustment for multiple comparisons, only one secondary outcome showed a statistically significant difference between the groups: the proportion of prescribing of the five most frequently used drugs was 2.2% (95% CI: 0.9 to 3.6) higher in the educational outreach group compared with the control group. A net increase in costs was shown with both interventions. Conclusions: Although good prescribing at baseline in the participating practices limited the capacity for improvement, this trial provides no evidence that guidelines with or without educational outreach visits from community pharmacists lead to substantial improvements in prescribing behaviour.
- one-to-one educational outreach visits
- community pharmacists
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)