DENVER — One of the biggest trends in the pharmacy-retail industry is the expansion of services on offer, ranging from health screenings to medication therapy management to vaccinations and immunizations.
On the last point, this usually means routine vaccinations, but for a growing number of pharmacy retailers, it also means immunizing travelers against diseases they may risk acquiring while abroad, such as hepatitis A and B, yellow fever and others. Seattle-based regional chain Bartell Drugs has offered comprehensive travel clinics at several of its stores for a few years now, and other retailers are doing the same. But an education session on Sunday morning at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Denver presented some of the opportunities and challenges involved in travel medicine.
Travel medicine requires expertise on a number of subjects, such as patient education, immunization and pharmacology. “These are things pharmacists are already very skilled at or can easily become skilled at,” the session's presenter, University of Southern California pharmacy professor Jeff Goad said. Vaccines are only part of it, he said.
Pharmacy retailers looking to get involved with travel medicine should also consider carrying products travelers will need, particularly if they're going to developing countries. These include water purification tablets, mosquito nets and insect repellents. In addition, pharmacists consulting prospective travelers should know ways to deal with non-infectious conditions like jet lag and altitude sickness.
Travel medicine requires some investment on the part of the retailer, such as setting aside an area to provide services, necessary education for the pharmacist and stocking up on travel-related products, Goad said, as well as collaborative practice agreements with physicians that may be needed for certain vaccinations and medications, travel medicine software and, in many states, a special stamp that certifies a pharmacy for delivering yellow fever vaccinations.