Community pharmacies and the provision of opioid substitution services for drug misusers: changes in activity and attitudes of community pharmacists across England 1995–2005

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AimsIn England, the role of community pharmacy in service provision to drug misusers was studied in 1995. Extensive involvement was identified, and considerable underused capacity was noted. This study explores these and potential new roles 10 years on.DesignCross-sectional national study. Postal survey (three mailshots), plus a fourth telephone follow-up using a structured questionnaire based on the 1995 questionnaire.SettingCommunity pharmacies in England.MeasurementsInvolvement in opioid substitution therapy services (e.g. methadone, buprenorphine) and related activities. Attitudes towards service provision and novel services.FindingsA 95% response rate was obtained. This was higher than in 1995, due largely to the use of a telephone follow-up. There had been an increase in the proportion providing substitution therapy dispensing services from 51% to 63% and in the average current case-load (from 5.9 to 9.2); and consequently a large increase in the numbers being treated (approximately × 1.9). Similarly, supervised consumption of methadone and buprenorphine was being provided more widely (increasing from 0 to 59% of all responding pharmacists). Attitudes towards existing roles were more positive than in 1995, and providers tended to be more positive than non-providers. For newer roles (e.g. supervise medications for comorbidity; provide hepatitis B vaccination), there was support from around one-quarter of respondents.ConclusionCommunity pharmacy continues to play an important role in delivering treatment, including prescribing services, to drug misusers. There still appears to be untapped capacity, and moderate support for newer roles.

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