4 Women's Health Issues Pharmacists Should Track


Community pharmacists are ideal candidates to provide women with reliable information about their health.

Community pharmacists are ideal candidates to provide women with reliable information about their health.

Here are 4 women’s health issues that pharmacists should familiarize themselves with in order to optimize care for their female patients:

1. Cardiovascular Disease

Although cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the No. 1 killer among women, just 13% of women surveyed by the American Heart Association perceive it as a health threat. This is because CVD is often viewed as a “man’s disease.”

“Cardiovascular disease among younger women has only recently received research attention, and it is possible that the perception of risk for adverse outcomes…is still skewed for younger women, who are seen as healthy and low risk,” CVD researcher Kate Smolina, PhD, previously told Pharmacy Times.

Pharmacists are in a great position to impart valuable heart-related wisdom to all patients, but especially women who may not be watching their CVD risk factors, such as obesity.

2. Breast and Ovarian Cancers

According to data collected by the American Cancer Society, breast and ovarian cancers were the second and fifth top cancer killers among women in 2013, respectively.

Research suggests that women who exercise regularly may have a reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer, so pharmacists can recommend greater physical activity and other preventive measures for women who are looking to protect themselves.

In addition, interactive online tools may help women foster more patient-provider discussions on hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. Pharmacists can promote these online resources to female patients, but they should also remind patients that these tools should not replace conversations between patients and their health care providers.

3. Pregnancy

Pregnancy can come with a host of complications, including risk for miscarriage and gestational diabetes.

Study results also suggest that depression affects as many as 23% of pregnant women, and the risk for serious depression necessitating hospitalization is more prevalent in women following the birth of a child.

With different resources providing conflicting information about the risks and benefits of antidepressant use during pregnancy, pharmacists should advise pregnant women to continue taking their psychiatric medications unless specifically advised by their provider.

Finally, some conditions may affect pregnancy in less obvious ways, and pharmacists can help fill in those information gaps.

For example, pregnancy is an important time for women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to receive adequate prenatal care, antiretroviral therapy, and postpartum HIV care to improve clinical outcomes for themselves and their babies.

4. Contraception

As contraception has changed and become more widely available, pharmacists have played a greater role in its distribution.

This year, pharmacists in Oregon gained the ability to prescribe and dispense transdermal and oral contraceptives to women aged 18 years or older, as well as those younger than 18 who have received a previous prescription for contraceptive patches or oral contraceptives from a physician.

At the federal level, Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced Senate Bill 1438, the “Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act,” which would permit oral contraceptives to be sold OTC nationally.

Regardless of prescriptive authority, pharmacists in all states can play a crucial role in curbing the number of unintended pregnancies by promoting contraceptive use in sexually active women of all ages.

According to the results of a study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted between 2011 and 2013, 22% of female teenagers who had sex at least once had taken the morning-after pill—a notable increase from 14% between 2006 and 2010, and 8% in 2002.

The same study showed that girls who did not use contraception during their first sexual encounter at age 19 were twice as likely to become teen mothers than those who did use contraception.

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