Researchers at King’s College, London, have found that brief alcohol interventions made by community pharmacists show no benefit. But it may be the intervention and not the venue.
Alcohol consumption continues to be a major public health challenge for the UK. There is a strong evidence base for the efficacy of brief interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in primary care, up to now there has been less robust evidence about interventions made by community pharmacists.
Given their position in and access to local communities it may be argued that community pharmacy would provide an ideal setting to deliver a brief intervention and deliver further support. In this study researchers from King’s College London, Durham University and the University of York conducted a randomised controlled trial assessing the efficacy of a brief motivational discussion of approximately 10 minutes versus a leaflet-only approach in 16 community pharmacies in London. The results indicate no beneficial effect in reducing hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption using motivational discussion.
As a result the study, funded by Pharmacy Research UK, concluded that continuing to implement alcohol brief intervention across pharmacies without evidence of its effectiveness in reducing risky alcohol use or an understanding of the particular features of the service which are required for a successful intervention is not recommended.
However, the researchers also feel that community pharmacy still remains a promising setting for delivering brief alcohol interventions and are calling for further research. Ranjita Dhital from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College, London said “Future research could consider redesigning the alcohol and brief intervention content for a larger-scale study, including the development of training for pharmacy staff to deliver interventions more effectively as well as identifying customers where a brief intervention could be effective.”
Dr Rachel Joynes, Head of Research and Evaluation at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society commented “We’ve seen evidence that screening for alcohol misuse in this setting is feasible but further larger scale studies are still needed to define effective interventions and approaches that pharmacist can integrate into their everyday practise. Studies like this highlight the potential of harnessing community pharmacies for research but in the case of alcohol misuse research also needs to be undertaken to investigate the patient side of the picture in terms of acceptability of interventions for users.”