Pharmacy in the World of Health Care and Science
Expanded Responsibilities for Pharmacists
More than ever, pharmacists are interacting with patients, doctors and other health care professionals in an effort to improve patients’ quality of life and to make contributions to their surrounding communities.
There are several reasons for this increase in demand and widening role. One of them is that more and more people are taking prescription drugs to manage chronic or long-term disease conditions, which are becoming increasingly prevalent both in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, at least seventy five percent of all health care costs are spent on managing these chronic and long-term conditions.
An example of one such chronic disease is diabetes. A study on diabetic patients by the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences shows improvements in glucose levels in diabetes patients whose doctors worked together with pharmacists (High glucose levels indicate that the patient is at risk for further complications, so the goal is to keep these levels low). In just six months, these pharmacists were able to help patients see improvement. By receiving care not just from a doctor, but also from pharmacists, patients were able to receive a higher level of individualized care, which likely contributed to the successful outcomes.
The pharmacists in the study scheduled an initial one-hour appointment with each patient where they wrote up detailed health records covering medication, health, and dietary history. After that initial appointment, patients could call or make appointments with the pharmacists whenever they needed. At the beginning of treatment, it wasn’t unusual for patients to contact the pharmacists once every couple of days. That kind of accessibility was important to the success of the program.
Similarly, in an Illinois study of patients with high blood pressure, adding the community pharmacist to the treatment team helped patients keep their blood pressure more stable and helped prevent more serious problems.
Pharmacists Help Patients Manage their Medications
Another way pharmacists’ roles are expanding is through specialty pharmacies. Specialty drugs are prescribed for diseases like cancer, blood disorders, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s Disease (to name a few). These drugs can be extremely expensive ($2,315 a month for an HIV drug called Fuzeon ), and some come in forms that are challenging to self-administer, like injections and infusions (powders that are mixed with liquids). Specialty pharmacists provide patient education and encouragement, which are key components in making sure these patients don’t skip their doses.
In addition to teacher, cheerleader, and health consultant, the specialty pharmacist can also add accountant to the long list of roles they fulfill. They check to make sure the patients can afford the drugs they’re taking and aren’t overpaying for them. Since insurance claims can get extremely complicated with specialty drugs, some pharmacists even help patients with their paperwork.
Pharmacists in the Military
Another area where pharmacists have taken on a larger role is in military pharmacy. Military pharmacists make sure that soldiers are outfitted with all the prescriptions they need before they’re deployed as well as upon their return so that there are no gaps in their treatment. The pharmacists also work with the soldiers’ wives and children. Military pharmacists can be very passionate about their careers, because the people they are helping to stay healthy are the soldiers, or the families of soldiers, who are serving our country.
Whether it’s in the community pharmacy, the specialty pharmacy, or the military pharmacy setting, it’s clear why pharmacists have become one of the most respected groups in the health care world. They play an immeasurably important role in keeping our country healthy and safe,and by lowering the number of hospital stays and helping patients manage their drug costs, they are even helping to strengthen our economy.
Now that we’ve seen what the pharmaceutical community does for our own country, let’s have a look at the impact pharmacists are making around the world.