Education on trial findings can improve prescribing

Educating GPs about new clinical trial findings can improve prescribing patterns and may make treatment more consistent with scientific evidence, a study suggests.

Heart attack research studied (Photograph: SPL)
Heart attack research studied (Photograph: SPL)

Doctors who underwent education about clinical findings changed their prescribing patterns, researchers found.

The team, led by Dr Randall Stafford from Stanford University, California, concluded that 'academic outreach' to educate prescribers had the potential to improve adherence to practice based on current scientific evidence.

Researchers said ensuring important trial findings were reflected in practice remained a 'substantial challenge'.

'Many studies indicate that evidence-based recommendations diffuse into widespread community use only slowly and then incompletely,' they said. This, they argued, weakens the scientific basis of clinical care.

The researchers studied results from the Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT), the results of which contained information from 147 educators.

Over three years, 18,524 doctors were contacted and underwent 'academic detailing' about thiazide-type diuretics for patients with hypertension.

Researchers then compared those contacted with prescribing habits for prescription of the drug class.

Data showed that the percentage of patient visits resulting in a prescription for a thiazide-type diuretic rose from 37.9 per cent to 46.5 per cent in areas with high levels of clinical trial education. In low activity areas, there was little change in prescribing rates.

The authors concluded: 'Academic detailing has the potential to improve prescribing patterns but may require greater intensity to facilitate translation of clinical trials evidence into community practice.'

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