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Customer Focus Award – Pharmacists

Finalist

Tacrolimus: Be Specific … Always Use the Brand Name

Astellas Pharma


Summary of work

In the UK there are now a number of available formulations of oral tacrolimus, which is indicated for prophylaxis of transplanted organ rejection. Different formulations are not bioequivalent or freely interchangeable without the close supervision of a Transplant Specialist. 

Despite this, over recent years there has been a number of serious medication errors reported, which in some cases has led to acute rejection. The ongoing risk of medication errors through inappropriate switching between oral tacrolimus formulations is a recognised source of concern among regulators and healthcare professionals, particularly Transplant Specialists. 
 
In 2010, the Astellas Transplant Brand Team was determined to truly protect the safety of tacrolimus transplant patients receiving repeat prescriptions in primary care, by driving branded prescribing. 
 
In order to achieve its goals, Astellas had to overcome a series of challenges to ensure the messaging was targeted and appropriate to its primary care customers. This group could bring about the most significant change in prescribing habits, and as a consequence ensure the ongoing safety of thousands of UK transplant patients. Astellas has managed to exceed both internal and external expectations of what could be achieved in this area, through a combination of determination and customer focus.

Judges comments

“By driving brand prescribing, increasing awareness of the serious consequences of inadvertent switching and campaigning for better patient safety and reduced prescribing errors, this initiative resulted in a marked improvement for patients and health professionals.”

Stakeholder comments

“Finding innovative ways to connect with patients and health professionals to get a specific message across can be very challenging but the effectiveness of the programme in awareness campaigning on the issues of ‘patient safety and prescribing errors’ has seen a marked improvement for patients and health professionals. We would like to commend the UK Astellas Transplant Team on their ongoing commitment to this issue, which can lead to serious complications for patients, including acute rejection.”
British Liver Trust
 
“Immunosuppression drugs are the key factor in keeping the patient and the transplanted organ healthy, but it is a delicate balancing act. Astellas has, through numerous initiatives, shown remarkable commitment and perseverance in providing the essential education to patients, pharmacists and doctors which ensures that these dose-critical drugs are prescribed and used safely and effectively, thus prolonging the life of the kidney and the patient.”
Chief Executive, National Kidney Federation