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New report highlights importance of pharmacists in diabetes management among Canadians
TORONTO — As part of Pharmacist Awareness Month, Shoppers Drug Mart and Great-West Life are releasing a new report that demonstrates how pharmacist interventions in diabetes management can make a real impact and improve people's health.
The Sustainable Solutions Report: Pharmacist Interventions in Diabetes shows how pharmacists were able to support diabetes management and influence improvements in health outcomes for participants in a research study, and illustrates how these same benefits could be expanded for all Canadians living with diabetes.
Using the results of a five-minute finger prick blood test (an A1C test), Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacists provided participating Great-West Life plan members with appropriate lifestyle counseling, medication recommendations and, where necessary, physician referrals. For those patients who returned for a second test, the study found that:
• The number of patients who reached their target tripled after the first intervention with a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist;
• Approximately half of all patients with a follow-up appointment had a clinically significant reduction in their blood sugar levels;
• Patients who met their target increased fourfold after the pharmacist consulted with their physician; and
• Of patients who were not initially at target and received a therapy change, half successfully reached target by their follow-up appointment.
According to researchers, monitoring average blood sugar levels through pharmacist-administered A1C testing can provide important information to assist with optimal diabetes management. The report also includes supporting research where Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacists provided patients with a range of interventions that escalated depending on the severity of the A1C test results. These interventions included discussions on diet, nutrition, exercise and insulin if applicable, adjusting their medication, follow-up appointments or physician referrals.
These results are significant because diabetes rates in Canada are rising fast, impacting not only the health of Canadians, but also placing greater costs and strain on the healthcare system, according to researchers:
• There were an estimated 2.7 million Canadians living with diabetes in 2010 and that number is expected to rise to 4.2 million by 2020.
• The cost associated with treating those with diabetes is also significant — it was estimated at $12.2 billion in 2010, and is projected to rise to $16.9 billion by 2020.
Likewise, increasing diabetes rates will cost companies and insurance providers significant amounts in benefits payouts. Private drug plans spend approximately four times more per capita on prescription drugs for employees with type 2 diabetes than for all other claimants.
Complications from diabetes account for more than 80% of the associated costs of the disease and appropriate interventions by pharmacists can prevent or at least delay those complications, including serious events such as heart attack or stroke.
There is tremendous opportunity to help more Canadians living with diabetes to access care and benefit from these services. The Sustainable Solutions Report: Pharmacist Interventions in Diabetes recommends the following actions:
1. Expand collaborative opportunities for pharmacists to assess patients' risk of developing diabetes.
2. Increase scope of practice to allow pharmacists in all provinces to conduct A1C tests for eligible patients and to access test results – allowing even more patients with diabetes to benefit from greater access to health care.
3. Enable pharmacists to structure and support a plan for patients to self-manage their care through the use of A1C test results and other diabetes assessment tools.
4. Increase scope of practice to allow pharmacists in all provinces to adapt prescriptions in order to help improve patient outcomes – making it easier for patients to get medication alterations made.
5. Strengthen opportunities for pharmacist-physician communication and collaboration to better support patients in attaining lifestyle and health outcome goals – especially with respect to their plan of care and any changes in their diabetes-related therapy.