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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52510. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052510. Epub 2012 Dec 27.

Using the simulated patient methodology to assess paracetamol-related counselling for headache.

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University of Ljubljana- Faculty of Pharmacy, Ljubljana, Slovenia.



Firstly, to assess paracetamol-related counselling. Secondly, to evaluate the patient's approach as a determinant of counselling and to test the acceptability of the simulated patient method in Slovenian pharmacies.


The simulated patient methodology was used in 17 community pharmacies. Three scenarios related to self-medication for headaches were developed and used in all participating pharmacies. Two scenarios were direct product requests: scenario 1: a patient with an uncomplicated short-term headache; scenario 2: a patient with a severe, long-duration headache who takes paracetamol for too long and concurrently drinks alcohol. Scenario 3 was a symptom-based request: a patient asking for medicine for a headache. Pharmacy visits were audio recorded and scored according to predetermined criteria arranged in two categories: counselling content and manner of counselling. The acceptability of the methodology used was evaluated by surveying the participating pharmacists.


The symptom-based request was scored significantly better (a mean 2.17 out of a possible 4 points) than the direct product requests (means of 1.64 and 0.67 out of a possible 4 points for scenario 1 and 2, respectively). The most common information provided was dosage and adverse effects. Only the symptom-based request stimulated spontaneous counselling. No statistically significant differences in the duration of the consultation between the scenarios were found. There were also no significant differences in the quality of counselling between the Masters of Pharmacy and Pharmacy Technicians. The acceptability of the SP method was not as high as in other countries.


The assessment of paracetamol-related counselling demonstrates room for practice improvement.

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