Pharmacists Could Play Important Role In Reform

Pharmacists may play an important role in the health care system by filling in health care gaps and advising patients, according to a series of articles in The Los Angeles Times, which reports on one clinical pharmacist Steven Chen and the "Patient Safety and Clinical Pharmacy Services Collaborative, a national project under the Health Resources and Services Administration that is working to integrate clinical pharmacy services into the care of patients with chronic diseases. ... Evidence shows that when clinical pharmacists collaborate with physicians, they improve health outcomes. And with their extensive knowledge of available drugs, pharmacists can help to save money by using the most cost-effective ones."

"Pharmacists review the patients' medical and medication histories, evaluate their drug therapy (changing it if necessary), order routine lab tests and monitor medication compliance. Best of all, perhaps, the pharmacists teach and encourage the patients, empathize with them and build their trust. ... A study currently under review for publication found that diabetes-related health outcomes are significantly better in clinics that integrate clinical pharmacists into their practice than in clinics that do not" (Ravn, 11/30).

In a second article, The Los Angeles Times reports that consumers often miss an opportunity for gaining pharmacists' assistance. "Today, most, if not all, states have laws requiring pharmacists to give patients specific information." In California, for instance, the law requires pharmacists "to offer counseling to patients about every new or changed prescription they fill." But a study by a nonprofit health policy organization found that 50 percent of patients 65 or older had waived the counseling (Ravn, 11/30).

In another article, The Times reports on the benefits of having a pharmacist review all the medications a patient is taking, including over-the-counter medications, herbal products and dietary supplements. The review, which can take an hour or more, can improve the patient's health and save money. "Some insurance plans, but not all, cover medication therapy management" (Ravn, 11/30).

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