A pharmaceutical consultation programme at Queen Mary Hospital has improved drug compliance among patients and saved about HK$600,000 in six months. Two pharmacists have been providing consultations to selected patients, mostly diabetics over the age of 55. They check to make sure the patients are taking their drugs, identify and rectify any problems they may have in using the medications, and educate them on what they are taking. Each consultation lasts for at least 20 minutes and costs each patient HK$60, which includes a new batch of drugs. From last April to January, 852 patients were recruited for the trial scheme: 378 have to date met the pharmacists. Of the 378 patients, 31 per cent were found to have drug compliance problems - either not taking the drugs correctly (21 per cent) or not taking the full course prescribed (14 per cent). Since the reassessment, all the patients have been taking their drugs correctly. The HK$600,000 in savings are attributed to a reduction in drug costs and fewer admissions to hospital and visits to emergency rooms. The hospital's chief of pharmacy service, William Chui Chun-ming, said many diabetic patients needed to take more than six types of drugs a day, which often resulted in their failure to take all their medication. 'The pharmacists will check the patients' drug compliance as well as if the patients have developed any side effects due to the medication. If needed, the pharmacists will advise the doctors to prescribe some other drugs or change the dosages for the patients,' he said. 'Drugs can be very expensive. We are encouraged that the trial can cut costs for the public hospital.' As a result of the preliminary success, Mr Chui said the hospital expanded the service to cardiac, hypertension and asthma patients last month. It will also expand the clinic and recruit two more pharmacists later this year. He said Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin was running a similar trial programme, and Princess Margaret Hospital in Lai Chi Kok was proposing a similar programme.