Pharmacists Can Educate Patients on Medication-Induced Photosensitivity, Sun Protection This Summer

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Pharmacists are leveraging tools, campaigns, and free samples to educate patients about medication-induced photosensitivity and the importance of sun protection.

In an Interview with Pharmacy Times, Chris Peshek, PharmD, RPh, director of pharmacy operations at Discount Drug Mart, discusses the "Sunsense campaign" and free sunscreen samples are used to engage patients and increase awareness. However, pharmacists face challenges such as time constraints, patients' lack of appreciation for long-term consequences, and reimbursement issues. Despite these obstacles, he continues to emphasize the importance of sun protection through community events, in-store merchandising, and patient counseling, aiming to improve long-term skin health outcomes.

Sun Screen, Photosensitivity, Pharmacy | Image Credit: sosiukin - stock.adobe.com

Image Credit: sosiukin - stock.adobe.com

Q: What are some of the most common medications that can cause photosensitivity?

Chris Peshek: There's a wide range of medications that could potentially cause photos sensitivity, and the reactions are ranged as well so mild to moderate to severe, but some of the most common ones are certain types of antibiotics, some antidepressants, chlorpromazine, just to name a few, but when in doubt, always ask your pharmacist if your medication might cause photo sensitivity.

Q: What strategies can pharmacists use to educate patients about potential sun sensitivity and the importance of sun protection when starting a new medication?

Chris Peshek: I think that the biggest thing is just education. So just making sure the patient is aware that it's a thing and differentiating what photosensitivity is compared to just regular old sunburn, and yhe fact that the medication can actually make you more sensitive to some exposure and the precautions that you need to take as a result.

Q: Are there any specific resources or tools pharmacists can utilize to counsel patients on sun safety related to medications?

Chris Peshek: There are a lot of tools available for pharmacists to use for facts and comparisons. Lexicomp, Pharmacists Letter has a lot of nice resources, then [Drug Mart] also put together some internal resources, which kind of combined the best parts of all of those things for our folks to use.

Q: What is the SunSense campaign, and how can this help to bring awareness to patients who are effected by photosensitivity due to their medication?
Chris Peshek: So essentially, we have certain medications flagged as being extremely photosensitive, or generating photos sensitivity, and when we sell one of those medications, there's a prompt at the point of sale, which causes a conversation to happen and also a free sample of sunscreen. That usually gets patients attention when you give away something for free. So it kind of piques their interest and they're more receptive to the message that you're going to deliver.

Q: With the increasing availability of sunless tanning products, can you advise on how pharmacists can guide patients on safe and effective alternatives to sun exposure for achieving a tan?

Chris Peshek:

Q: Beyond sunscreen, how can pharmacists promote a broader understanding of sun protection strategies?

Chris Peshek: The sunless tanners are a much safer long term solution for those who want to tan compared to direct UV exposure. So there aren't a lot of opportunities where pharmacy and the cosmetic world intertwine, but there are some and this is one where we have an opportunity to kind of counsel patients who would like to kind of tan or explore that space.

Q: How can pharmacists play a role in raising awareness about skin cancer within their communities?

Chris Peshek: The hardest thing that we're up against, I think is the appreciation for long-term consequences. We live in a in a very kind of "in the now" type society, generally speaking. So when you tell somebody that exposure to UV radiation, without any protection, or sunscreen, could lead to long term dermatology or cancer related problems. That's a hard sell sometimes, and so having education flyers, handouts, free samples, like I mentioned, those kinds of things really go a long way in in initiating the conversation and getting patients attention to hopefully improve their their skin health in the long term.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges pharmacists face in promoting sun safety awareness?

Chris Peshek: So there are a couple of ways obviously, community events are a good opportunity we could set up a table and we can have those kinds of conversations. But realistically, in our stores, it's kind of our bread and butter, and so campaigns like our Sunsense campaign, and also just merchandising where we put sunscreen and UV blocking products near the pharmacy so that when when we do have a patient who's asking about it, or is on a medication that could cause photosensitivity, we can point them in that direction, in a kind of a quick and convenient way. The biggest challenge is probably the one that is the challenge for all programs, which is time just having the time to have the conversations, but another challenge is what we mentioned before about understanding and having an appreciation for long term consequences of actions today, so kind of battling that perception among our patients. So the last challenge that we face is reimbursement, so there's no way today for pharmacists to get reimbursed for a conversation about skin protection.

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