Advice in community pharmacy not effective in tackling harmful alcohol consumption, says PHE review

Beer glass

Brief interventions delivered by community pharmacists were no more effective than a leaflet alone in reducing hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption, a review from Public Health England has highlighted.

The evidence review, published on 31 July 2018 and commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care to provide an overview of, and possible policy solutions to, alcohol-related harm in England, discussed a randomised controlled trial that was carried out across 16 community pharmacies in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham from May 2012 to May 2013[1]

The aim of thie trial was to assess the effectiveness of identification and provision of brief advice, such as reminding patients of the harm of excessive alcohol intake, in reducing hazardous and harmful drinking in pharmacy settings.

Over 400 participants were randomly allocated to either identification and brief advice or were given a leaflet only. Participants were followed up after three months.

The outcomes were assessed according to changes in Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores and the proportion of participants scoring negative on AUDIT (a score of <8).

Compared to the leaflet-only group, at three months it was found that there were no reductions in total AUDIT score for the group receiving identification and brief advice, or in the likelihood of a negative AUDIT score.

The PHE report said that, although there were no concerns with the methodological rigour of the study, it was possible that the pharmacists were undertrained in the delivery of identification and brief advice, as they received only one 3.5-hour training session.

The report said that the findings from the trial confirmed those of a previous literature review, which found little empirical support for the effectiveness of identification and brief advice for reducing hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption in community pharmacies.


[1] Dhital R, Norman I, Whittlesea C et al. The effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions delivered by community pharmacists: randomized controlled trial. Addiction. 2015 Oct;110(10):1586–1594. doi: 10.1111/add.12994

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Advice in community pharmacy not effective in tackling harmful alcohol consumption, says PHE review;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205274

You may also be interested in