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Weekly pharmacy visits boost drug adherence and quality of life in heart failure patients

Heart Failure

Athens, Greece – 26 May 2019: Elderly patients with heart failure who see a pharmacist once a week are more likely to take their tablets and be active in daily life, according to late breaking results from the PHARM-CHF randomised controlled trial presented today at Heart Failure 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

“Adhering to a complex medication regimen is a huge challenge for elderly patients with heart failure,” said co-principal investigator Professor Martin Schulz, of the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Freie Universitaet Berlin, Germany. “It is estimated that 30% to 50% of patients in Europe are nonadherent to heart failure medications, which results in increased frequency and severity of symptoms such as breathlessness, worsening heart failure and consequent hospitalisations, and higher mortality.”

Nonadherence includes not collecting a prescription, taking a lower dose or less pills than prescribed, drug holidays (during weekends or holidays, or when feeling better), or completely stopping one or more drugs.

The PHARM-CHF trial investigated whether regularly seeing a pharmacist improves adherence to heart failure medications.2 A total of 237 ambulatory chronic heart failure patients aged 60 years and older were randomly allocated to usual care or a pharmacy intervention and followed-up for a median of two years. The average age was 74 years, 62% were male, and the median number of different drugs was nine.

The intervention started with a medication review. Patients brought their drugs to a pharmacist who made a medication plan, checked for drug interactions and double medications, and contacted the physician about any risks. Patients then visited the pharmacy every 8–10 days to discuss adherence and symptoms, and have blood pressure and pulse rate measurements. Drugs were provided in a pillbox with compartments for morning, noon, evening, and night on each day. The pharmacist updated the medication plan if needed and contacted the doctor with new drug-related problems or significant changes in vital signs.

The primary efficacy endpoint was the proportion of days three heart failure medications were collected (using pharmacy claims data) in the year after randomisation. The drugs were beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists. Compared to usual care, the intervention resulted in a significant 5.7% absolute increase in collection.

The researchers also calculated the proportion of patients who collected the three drugs at least 80% of the days under study (defined as adherent) compared to baseline.3 The proportion of adherent patients increased from 44% to 86% in the pharmacy group and from 42% to 68% in the usual care group – a significant 18%-points difference between groups. Patients in the pharmacy group were three times more likely to become adherent compared to the usual care group. Six patients would need to receive the intervention to achieve at least 80% adherence in one patient.

There was no difference between groups in the primary composite safety endpoint of days lost in the year following randomisation due to unplanned cardiovascular hospitalisations or all-cause death.

Improvement in quality of life was more pronounced in the pharmacy group after one year and significantly better compared to the usual care group after two years. This meant patients in the pharmacy group were less limited in their daily activities and less worried about their disease.

Professor Schulz, who is also director of the Department of Medicine at ABDA – Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists, said patients would need to see the pharmacist every week lifelong for the benefits to continue: “The key point is that pharmacy visits need to be used as an opportunity to provide structured care.”

Co-principal investigator Professor Ulrich Laufs, director of the Department of Cardiology, Leipzig University, Germany, said: “Cardiologists and general practitioners would welcome this type of intervention since it does not change the medication that is prescribed but helps patients to follow the treatment strategy.”



Notes to editor

Authors: ESC Press Office
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Funding: ABDA, Pharmacists’ Foundation Westphalia-Lippe, Chamber of Pharmacists North Rhine, Lesmueller Foundation, Foundation Pharmaceutical Care.


Disclosures: None declared.



1The abstract ‘Pharmacy-based interdisciplinary intervention for patients with chronic heart failure: results of the PHARM-CHF randomized controlled trial’ will be presented during the session Late breaking trial II - Chronic heart failure on Sunday 26 May at 08:30 to 10:00 EEST in the Trianti lecture room.

2Laufs U, Griese-Mammen N, Krueger K, et al. PHARMacy-based interdisciplinary program for patients with Chronic Heart Failure (PHARM-CHF): rationale and design of a randomized controlled trial, and results

of the pilot study. Eur J Heart Fail. 2018;20:1350–1359. doi:10.1002/ejhf.1213.

3Baseline adherence was calculated over a 183-day period prior to randomisation.


About Heart Failure and the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure

Heart Failure and the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure are annual congresses of the Heart Failure Association (HFA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).


About the Heart Failure Association

The Heart Failure Association (HFA) is a branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Its aim is to improve quality of life and longevity, through better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart failure, including the establishment of networks for its management, education and research.

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.


Information for journalists attending Heart Failure 2019

Heart Failure 2019 and the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure will be held 25 to 28 May at the Megaron Athens International Conference Centre in Athens, Greece. Explore the scientific programme.

  • To register on-site please bring a valid press card or appropriate letter of assignment with proof of three recent published articles (cardiology or health-related, or referring to a previous ESC Event).
  • Press registration is not available to industry or its public relations representatives, event management, marketing or communications representatives.