Should Pharmacy Schools Include More Veterinary Pharmacy Courses?

Results from a study led by a P4 student at Marshall University School of Pharmacy support the need for more veterinary pharmacy education.

Results from a study led by a P4 student at Marshall University School of Pharmacy support the need for more veterinary pharmacy education.

Inder Sehgal, DVM, PhD, professor of pharmacology and a graduate veterinarian, designed and implemented a course on companion animal comparative counseling and recorded findings from the class with lead study author and P4 student Jennifer C. Miller.

The goal of the companion animal class was to teach students about the essentials of veterinary therapeutics, including comparative disease states, information on how to counsel on pet prescriptions, and the creation of client information sheets. In addition, the students were taught skills related to feeling for lymph nodes, administering pills, and teaching pet owners how to recognize symptoms in their pets.

The 38 students in the class were taught 9 different topics over the semester, and the course included didactic components, trivia questions, and field trips to dog parks and 2 compounding pharmacies. The focus of the weekly 3-hour class was mainly dogs and cats. Students were tested via 3 major graded assessments, plus attendance and participation.

Over the course of the semester, the study authors found that the students unsurprisingly improved their training in veterinary comparative pharmacy. The researchers argued that this finding is important because more animal prescriptions are being referred to community pharmacies, but some pharmacists may not feel as though they are adequately trained on these medications.

“Our hope is that the publication of this course and its learning outcomes will build enthusiasm for veterinary pharmacotherapy in pharmacy programs across the nation,” Dr. Sehgal said in a press release.

About 35 pharmacy schools already have veterinary-related elective courses, but the researchers argued that these classes do not follow standardized formats for content, so their depths into veterinary topics varied. Some courses emphasized compounding, while others focused on indications and mechanisms of treatments.

In the study, two-thirds of students thought veterinary pharmacy should be included in the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. Additionally, at the beginning of the course, more than 70% of the students said they did not believe that graduate pharmacists knew enough veterinary pharmacotherapy to counsel pet owners. After the course concluded, the students’ answers reflected that they felt more strongly about a current lack of sufficient knowledge for counseling.

“There is a disconnect between the need of community pharmacists filling veterinary prescriptions to possess the knowledge to differentiate between applications of human and animal therapeutics and the perceived lack of a need by pharmacy academics to uniformly teach such a knowledge base,” the researchers argued.

The students also reported that the course had not only taught them more about veterinary pharmacy, but also reinforced pharmacology or pharmacotherapy learned in other pharmacy classes.

The study authors suggested that interprofessional education between pharmacy and veterinary medicine students could help improve animal care and reduce related errors.

The research, which was published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, effectively marked “the first time a school of pharmacy student has published as first author in a peer-reviewed research article since the school's inception in 2012,” according to a school press release.