The Role of Pharmacists in Diabetes Management

April 13, 2021
Abimbola Farinde, PharmD

Pharmacists can play an integral role when it comes to the management of diabetes, whether by educating patients on lifestyle changes, medications, or disease state management.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic and debilitating condition that can progress over time if it is not managed appropriately by the individual diagnosed with the condition.1 Lack of proper knowledge or awareness can have significant negative consequences for these patients.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 29.1 million Americans—or 9.3% of the population—had diabetes in 2012, and approximately 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with new cases of diabetes each year.2 The prevalence of the disease continues to grow and it is recognized as a major public health issue and greater attention is needed for appropriate lifelong management and adequate control of symptoms.

Along with adults, children and adolescents are increasingly being diagnosed with the endocrine disorder, and there may be myriad reasons for these higher rates. Approximately 208,000 Americans under 20 years of age are estimated to have been diagnosed with diabetes, placing an additional layer of urgency on the management of this growing issue in our society.

In order to effectively curtail the development of diabetes, many Americans are being instructed by health care professionals to change their lifestyle habits and behaviors. Some of the recommended changes can include altering eating habits, engaging in more physical activities, and adopting a less sedentary lifestyle.

Moving away from the sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits is an effective but practical way to keep the symptoms and progression of diabetes at bay, and counseling on these changes has become common. Since diabetes is a progressive condition, lifestyle interventions are recognized as first step for management, although this may not work for everyone.

If these interventions are not effective, some individuals may use other treatment options, including medication initiation. Oral medications—such as, first- and second-generation agents, non-sulfonylurea secretagogue, alpha-glucosidase inhibitor therapy, biguanide therapy, thiazolidinedione therapy, and insulin therapy—have become mainstays for the management of diabetes for many Americans.3

For cases in which patients have reached their limit with the use of oral hypoglycemics agents, they can generally revert to the use of insulin therapies, including rapid acting or long acting agents depending on the type of management they need.

Pharmacists can play an integral role when it comes to the management of diabetes, whether by educating patients on lifestyle changes, medications, or disease state management.4 An individual’s awareness of the impact that diabetes can have on their overall health and functionality can serve as a stepping-stone toward making more effective changes.

For example, pharmacists can provide ongoing education on how noncompliance with lifestyle modifications can influence the effects of drug therapy regimens. The ability to properly regulate dietary intake and incorporate an exercise regimen can improve the performance of therapeutic agents.

Each year, new agents to address diabetes are released into the market, providing additional options for patients who might not have achieved their therapeutic goals with existing medications. With proper management and ongoing care, individuals who are diagnosed with diabetes are able to achieve and maintain a good quality of life for many years.5

References

  1. Chinsembu KC. Diabetes mellitus and nature’s pharmacy of putative antidiabetic plants. J Herb Med. 2019;15. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/researchers-find-cancer-screenings-rebounded-quickly-after-drop-at-beginning-of-covid-19-pandemic
  2. American Diabetes Association. Fast Facts: Data and statistics about diabetes. 2015. https://professional.diabetes.org/sites/professional.diabetes.org/files/media/fast_facts_12-2015a.pdf
  3. Luna B & Feinglos, M. Oral agents in the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus.Am Fam Physician.2001;63:1747-56.
  4. Chiara M. The expanding role of pharmacists: A positive shift for health care. Commonwealth Medicine. 2019. https://commed.umassmed.edu/blog/2019/03/26/expanding-role-pharmacists-positive-shift-health-care
  5. American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care for patients with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2003l26(suppl 1): s33-s50.