A Rally Cry for Pharmacist Counseling

In my limited experience at retail pharmacies, I rarely see patients being counseled.

Have you heard the Jerry Seinfeld joke where he describes a pharmacist’s "whole job" as taking pills from a big bottle and putting them in a little bottle? That’s how some folks have traditionally viewed the pharmacy profession.

Luckily, the image of pharmacy has come a long way since that joke was first made. The Oregon law recognizing pharmacists as health care providers is a huge step in the right direction. The state now joins California and Washington in recognizing pharmacist provider status.

For pharmacists practicing in other states, there is still much to accomplish. As medication use experts, pharmacists are the backbone of the entire health care system. The time is right to change the public’s opinion.

You may be asking yourself, "What can I do?" Well, a small change you can make today is to refocus on patient counseling.

In my limited experience at retail pharmacies, I rarely see patients being counseled. Most patients are all too eager to sign their counseling right away and leave the pharmacy as soon as possible. However, many of these patients are not taking their medications as prescribed. In fact, half of patients new to therapy stop refilling their prescription within a year and 15% to 30% new prescriptions are never filled at all.

I understand that pharmacies make money by dispensing medications. Still, I wonder how many great counseling opportunities slip by because patients aren’t valuing pharmacists' vast knowledge. Our hard work in pharmacy school puts us in the perfect position to counsel patients, increase adherence, and optimize drug treatment.

I hope more states take the next steps so that all pharmacists have provider status. I don't know how to convince politicians to enact pharmacy provider status legislation, but I do know that we can engage our patients. We can start changing minds through counseling.

References

  • Ravn K. Pharmacists are a vital, if under-used, part of healthcare. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/30/health/la-he-pharmacists30-2009nov30 Accessed July 2015.
  • Firlik K. Medication Adherence: Our Survey of Physicians and What Surprised Me. Klick Health. https://www.klick.com/health/news/blog/patient-solutions/medication-adherence-our-survey-of-physicians-and-what-surprised-me Accessed July 2015.
  • Fischer MA, Stedman MR, Lii J, et al. Primary medication non-adherence: analysis of 195,930 electronic prescriptions. J Gen Intern Med 2010;25(4):284-290.
  • Gadkari AS, McHorney CA. Medication nonfulfillment rates and reasons: narrative systematic review. Curr Med Res Opin 2010;26:683-705.
  • Yeaw J, Benner JS, Walt JG, et al. Comparing adherence and persistence across 6 chronic medication classes. J Manag Care Pharm 2009;15(9):728-740.