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A Health Research Council-funded study is trialling the effectiveness of providing evidence-based information and pathways to care for those with knee osteoarthritis through their community pharmacy.

Ben Darlow image
Associate Professor Ben Darlow.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Ben Darlow of the University of Otago, Wellington, says knee osteoarthritis (OA) affects one in four New Zealand adults. Surgery is an option for some, he says, but there is a gap in the provision of accessible, ongoing care and advice for the majority of people living with knee OA.

Darlow and his colleagues have partnered with Canterbury Community Pharmacy Group , the Midland Community Pharmacy Group, and community clinicians to trial the Knee Care for Arthritis through Community Pharmacy Service ( KneeCAPS ).

Darlow says KneeCAPS identifies people with knee OA in a community pharmacy setting and provides them with an information booklet (developed by the research team and guided by research with consumers, clinicians, arthritis advocates and pharmacists); access to a dedicated website; and pathways to ongoing care. Care includes access to physiotherapists, dietitians, and pharmacists reviewing medications.

The four-year Health Research Council (HRC) project began in 2022. The programme is being trialled at 24 pharmacies across the Waitaha Canterbury and Waikato regions. More than 230 people have so far joined the study. Initial results are expected in early 2025.

“We will test whether KneeCAPS reduces pain, impairment, and costs. We aimed to recruit equal numbers of Māori and non-Māori participants to ensure that KneeCAPS advances Māori health.”

Darlow says the KneeCAPS trial phase follows years of research that explored consumer understanding and needs, and the role of the community pharmacy in delivering this type of healthcare.Findings from these studies, published from 2018 onwards, include:

  • Patients with knee OA interviewed believed (incorrectly) the condition was a result of ‘wear and tear’ and they had little ability to influence the rate of decline and surgery was the only effective solution. Improved information could help guide positive health behaviour.
  • Consumers, clinicians and arthritis advocates positively rated an information booklet developed by the interdisciplinary research team.
  • A feasibility study of the KneeCAPS programme found community pharmacies worked well as a setting for identifying people with knee OA (using pre-determined clinical criteria) and providing access to evidence-based resources and ongoing care.

Canterbury Community Pharmacy Group General Manager Aarti Patel says that KneeCAPS is an example of the growing role of community pharmacies in delivering care to maintain New Zealanders’ health and wellbeing. Pharmacists and their staff are trusted members of communities and invested in delivering evidence-based, accessible care.

For more information

Visit Reducing the burden of knee osteoarthritis through community pharmacy | Health Research Council of New Zealand (
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