When boosting adherence means saving lives

More evidence is emerging that interventions by pharmacists can have a profound beneficial effect on patient outcomes.

The latest example comes from Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy, which released the results of a study May 17 showing that more than two-thirds of patients with hepatitis C “achieved sustained virologic response or cure after completing newer ‘triple therapy’ treatment” backed up by a regimen of care and oversight by pharmacists, according to a Drug Store News report from senior editor Michael Johnsen.

Why the pharmacist interventions? They help improve patient compliance with the complicated drug therapy, which involves the administration of two newer protease inhibitors to prevent the HCV virus from reproducing, in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin. According to Johnsen, that powerful medicinal cocktail “significantly increased the cure rate and cut treatment time in half” for the 406 HCV patients in the study who received triple therapy with either telaprevir or boceprevir.

Active involvement by Walgreens pharmacists was critical to the success of the program, because “many patients have a difficult time completing the treatment due to the side effects and because they usually don’t feel sick when they have HCV,” Johnsen reports. “This makes pharmacist follow-up and support particularly important.”

The news from Walgreens and DSN was of special interest to me: One of my best friends underwent an intensive, yearlong medication regimen a few years ago to rid his body of HCV, and it saved his life. The drugs and the treatment regimen “cured” him, reducing his viral load down to undetectable levels and allowing him to go on with his life.

It’s another reminder, if one was needed, of the critical role pharmacists play in this nation’s overtaxed, disjointed healthcare system by helping patients stay on track with their medication therapies, monitoring their progress and providing the ongoing counseling that helps patients stay adherent and regain their health.

If you’ve encountered similar situations as a pharmacist or pharmacy resident, please share them by clicking on the comment link. Your feedback, as always, is much appreciated.

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