A systematic review examining the effectiveness of medicines information services for patients and the general public

Matthew Williams, Abbie Jordan, Jennifer Scott, Matthew Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objectives: Hospital-based patient medicines helpline services (PMHS) and medicines information services for the general public (MISGP) are available in many countries to support people with their medicines. Our aim was to examine the available evidence regarding the effectiveness of PMHS and MISGP. Methods: Searches were conducted using Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, Scopus and Web of Science, on 11 August 2018. Forward and backward citation searches were conducted, grey literature was searched, and study quality/risk of bias was assessed. Findings were synthesised in a narrative synthesis. Where appropriate, weighted means were calculated. Key findings: Thirty-two studies were identified for inclusion (17 published articles, 15 conference abstracts). Eighteen studies were conducted within the United Kingdom. Mean quality assessment was moderate (51%), and risk of bias was high (63%). PMHS and MISGP are both typically perceived as positive (e.g. 94% and 91% of participants were satisfied with using a PMHS and MISGP, respectively). For PMHS, the advice received is reported to be usually followed (94%, and 66% for MISGP). For both services, users report several positive outcomes (e.g. problems resolved/avoided, feeling reassured and improved health). PMHS may also be effective for correcting medicines-related errors (up to 39% of calls may concern such errors) and for potentially avoiding medicines-related harm (48% of enquiries concerned situations that were judged to have the potential to harm patients). Conclusions: Findings suggest that both PMHS and MISGP may be beneficial sources of medicines-related support. However, the moderate quality and high risk of bias of studies highlight that more high-quality research is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-40
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice
Issue number1
Early online date12 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020


  • patient medicines helplines
  • systematic review
  • National Health Service
  • medicines information
  • drug information
  • Hospital pharmacy
  • drug information center
  • drug information centre
  • hospital pharmacy
  • patient medicines helpline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical Science


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