Qual Saf Health Care 15:23-31 doi:10.1136/qshc.2004.012153
  • Original Article

Interventions in primary care to reduce medication related adverse events and hospital admissions: systematic review and meta-analysis

  1. S Royal1,
  2. L Smeaton2,
  3. A J Avery1,
  4. B Hurwitz3,
  5. A Sheikh4
  1. 1Division of Primary Care, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK
  2. 2Pharmacy Department, University College Hospitals, London W1T 3AA, UK
  3. 3School of Humanities, King’s College, London WC2R 2LS, UK
  4. 4Division of Community Health Sciences: GP Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor A Sheikh
 Division of Community Health Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX, UK; aziz.sheikh{at}
  • Accepted 22 November 2005


Objective: To identify and evaluate studies of interventions in primary care aimed at reducing medication related adverse events that result in morbidity, hospital admission, and/or mortality.

Methods: Fourteen electronic databases were systematically searched for published and unpublished data. Bibliographies of retrieved papers were searched and experts and first authors contacted in an attempt to locate additional studies. There were no restrictions on language of publication. All interventions applied in primary care settings which aimed to improve patient safety by reducing adverse events resulting from medication overuse or misuse were considered. Randomised controlled trials, controlled trials, controlled before and after studies, and interrupted time series studies were eligible for inclusion. Study quality assessment and data extraction were undertaken using the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care data collection checklist and template. Meta-analysis was performed using a random effects model.

Results: 159 studies were initially identified, of which 38 satisfied our inclusion criteria. These were categorised as follows: 17 pharmacist-led interventions (of which 15 reported hospital admissions as an outcome); eight interventions led by other primary healthcare professionals that reported preventable drug related morbidity as an outcome; and 13 complex interventions that included a component of medication review aimed at reducing falls in the elderly (the outcome being falls). Meta-analysis found that pharmacist-led interventions are effective at reducing hospital admissions (OR 0.64 (95% CI 0.43 to 0.96)), but restricting analysis to the randomised controlled trials failed to demonstrate significant benefit (OR 0.92 (95% CI 0.81 to 1.05)). Pooling the results of studies in the other categories did not demonstrate any significant effect.

Conclusions: There is relatively weak evidence to indicate that pharmacist-led medication reviews are effective in reducing hospital admissions. There is currently no evidence for the effectiveness of other interventions which aim at reducing admissions or preventable drug related morbidity. More randomised controlled trials of primary care based pharmacist-led interventions are needed to decide whether or not this intervention is effective in reducing hospital admissions.


  • AA, AS and BH conceived, designed and secured funding for the study with SR assisting in study design. SR and LS undertook the literature searches and selected studies for inclusion and extracted and analysed data under the supervision of AS. All authors contributed to the analysis of the results with SR performing the meta-analysis. SR and LS led the drafting of this report, a process to which all the other authors contributed. AA and AS are guarantors.

  • Funding: BUPA Foundation.

  • Competing interests: None declared.