Patients Pleased with Pharmacists' Cough, Cold Care

February 1, 2015
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Patients report acceptable clinical improvement and high satisfaction with a pharmacist's advice on self-managing cough and cold.

Do patients benefit from consulting a pharmacist for cough and cold care, rather than visiting their general practitioners? This is the question a team of pharmacists addressed in a sweeping study involving 133 pharmacies.

For their prospective study published in the December 2014 issue of Homeopathy, the researchers observed patients who sought direct advice from a pharmacist for influenza-like illness (ILI) or ear, nose, and throat (ENT) disorders between November 2010 and March 2011. Patients were included if they were aged 12 years or older and had ILI or ENT symptoms of <36 hours duration.

Among the 573 patients who met the study criteria, 63.2% approached the pharmacist within 24 hours of symptom onset. Patients’ most common complaints were runny nose (56.4%), sore throat (54.6%), and cough (49%). After the patients received treatment, the researchers assessed symptom evolution and patient satisfaction 3 days later.

Patients received an average of 2.6 medications, and almost all received an analgesic/antipyretic agent. Across the subjects, 38% received drops, throat sprays, or nasal sprays; 36% received combination products; and 30% received antitussives/mucolytics. A full one-quarter of patients received a homeopathic remedy, primarily oscillococcinum, usually combined with allopathy.

Most patients reported symptom improvement, 77.2% had continued treatment, and 85.9% were satisfied with the advice they received from a pharmacist. Half of the patients had self-medicated prior to visiting the pharmacy, usually by taking an analgesic/antipyretic for fever and shivering. Patients in this group were less likely to be satisfied with pharmacists’ advice. However, the researchers indicated that those patients may have had more severe symptoms at inclusion and thus expected a more dramatic improvement.

Overall, the patients reported acceptable clinical improvement and high satisfaction with a pharmacist’s advice on self-managing ILI and ENT disorders.

“Seeking a pharmacist’s advice for the management of ILI and ENT disorders has several public health benefits,” the study authors wrote. “The clinical improvement and high patient satisfaction observed validate the role of the pharmacist as a health professional of first resort.”