Rowlands to replace blister packs with pouch-based dispensing device

The PilPouch holds medication in a series of labelled bags, and it is hoped that it can improve the consistency of dispensing.

PilPouch box medicines dispensing

High street pharmacy Rowlands has said it will be replacing blister packs with a pouch-based dispensing device for all its monitored dosage systems (MDS) patients.

The device, called a PilPouch, contains medication in a series of labelled bags that are pulled, one by one, from a cardboard box.

A spokesperson for Rowlands said use of the device would save money at a time when community pharmacy funding was under pressure and that the system would improve the consistency of dispensing.

But Royal Pharmaceutical Society spokesperson on older people, Lelly Oboh, who works in the adult community health services run by Guys and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust in London, said she was concerned that some patients might struggle with the new device.

“One size does not fit all, particularly with older patients,” she said.

“Ideally, you would test every patient to see what they could manage and then decide how to provide the medication.”

Rowlands said it had piloted the PilPouch to 190 MDS patients who had previously used blister packs and that every patient who switched to the PilPouch chose to continue with the pouches once the pilot had ended.

A spokesperson for the pharmacy said it had also commissioned independent market research, which tested the PilPouch system for patients with a range of conditions including mental health issues; loss of motor function, mobility and dexterity resulting from stroke, Parkinson’s or arthritis; and several patients with dementia.

“As a result, important changes were made to the packaging — for example, to ensure that pouches with multiple medications pulled easily and freely from the PilPouch box. In addition, at the request of patients with dementia, a pouch numbering system was introduced to clearly indicate to the patient the current position in their medication cycle,” he said.

They added that all existing MDS patients, and if appropriate a family member or carer, would receive a consultation with a member of the pharmacy team, to determine whether they could self-manage PilPouch.

The Pharmaceutical Journal has been told that the pouches will be distributed from one, or a number, of hubs, rather than from individual pharmacies. Rowlands did not comment on this, other than to say it expected to start a “phased roll-out” of the system in the final quarter of 2017, but only once it had “scoped fully all technical and patient aspects”.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) does not regulate systems or machines used to dispense medicines, but all pharmacies are expected to meet standards that include requirements that both medical devices and equipment used to provide pharmacy services are “safe to use and fit for purpose”.

The GPhC confirmed it has been notified of Rowland’s intentions to introduce the PilPouch.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2017, Vol 299, 7905;299(7905):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203579

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