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School of Pharmacy Students Investigate Senior Care
A group of pharmacy researchers from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy is leading groundbreaking studies on how to care for the nation’s aging population.

The 4 students are working together to find ways of helping seniors cope with multiple chronic illnesses and complex medication regimens. They presented their research in November at the annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

PhD student Jingjing Qian discovered that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are less likely to adhere to antidepressants. Doctoral student Jennifer Lloyd, MA, of the University of Maryland’s Doctoral Program in Gerontology, found that adherence to medications for congestive heart failure (CHF) substantially reduced Medicare spending. She recommends offering cost incentives to beneficiaries who diligently take CHF medications.

Sarah Dutcher, a graduate of the school’s Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research (PHSR), found that Medicare beneficiaries with heart failure and comorbid dementia receive fewer medications for heart failure. Research by pharmacist H. Ker, Yang, PhD, MPH, BSPharm, a postdoctoral fellow at the school, identified a similar pattern in patients with depression and dementia.

She found that 12.4% of Medicare beneficiaries with depression also have dementia. These patients tend to be significantly older, have more comorbidities, and use more medications than those without dementia. They also have higher risks of hospitalization and are less likely to use antidepressants than those without dementia.

“Unlike physical ailments, dementia patients may be unable to express their depression. I am concerned about the vulnerability of these patients. Our research is trying to bring more awareness among health care providers,” Yang said.

The students’ collaborative, multifaceted approach puts them at the forefront of gerontology research. “One reason for these students’ successes was the close teamwork in thinking through the important clinical and policy questions, designing the analysis, and interpreting the findings,” said PHSR Professor Linda Simoni-Wastila, RPh, PhD.

Call for Entries: 2011 Next- Generation Pharmacist Awards
Pharmacy Times and Parata Systems are now accepting nominations for the 2011 Next-Generation Pharmacist Awards. This unique program celebrates pharmacists whose innovations are changing the way pharmacists care for patients and provides a “state of the industry” report outlining the values and experiences that define today’s pharmacists.

Nominating a pharmacist not only honors his or her contributions to the field— it casts a spotlight on exemplary efforts, providing a role model for the profession as a whole. Winners in each category will be profiled in Pharmacy Times, and the winner of the highest honor, the Next- Generation Pharmacist Award, will appear on the cover of a special issue.

For more information, visit http://nextgenerationpharmacist. org.

American Journal of Managed Care Focuses on HIT and Medication Adherence
The results of an important study that discusses the potential of health information technology (HIT) for improving medication adherence—a key concern of health care professionals—was published in the December special theme issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, a sister publication to Pharmacy Times.

“Healthcare Information Technology Interventions to Improve Cardiovascular and Diabetes Medication Adherence” reviews the literature for how technology has been used for medication adherence, and presents a systematic assessment on the effectiveness of HIT interventions.

The study was a 3-year collaboration between CVS Caremark, Harvard University, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and revealed key points, including that there is a paucity of clinical data despite the increased availability of HIT; that simple HIT interventions, such as reminder systems, appear to be effective and a relatively low-cost approach to improving adherence; and that interactive systems, such as education and counseling via interactive computer interface, were “rudimentary and showed limited benefits.

“Despite the paucity of data, this review suggests that HIT interventions are promising tools in the fight to improve medication adherence,” said William H. Shrank, MD, MSHS, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard, and the senior author of the study. “While there have been many studies on the subject of boosting adherence, we were surprised to find so few on the topic of using health information technology to accomplish this goal.”

While the results are promising, not all methods are effective and more research needs to be done before significant conclusions can be drawn, according to the study.

The authors note that “developers should consider how to find collaborative reimbursement approaches to support innovative adherence interventions and directly evaluate the return on investment expected from intervention.” The authors call for collaboration across many stakeholders, according to the January 3, 2011 report in The Pink Sheet, as well as “rigorous testing in order to determine best practices.” For the full article visit www.ajmc.com.