NEW YORK —With cardiovascular disease being the top killer of American men and women, a lot of restaurants and retailers have made going healthy as prominent in their marketing strategies as going green, but community pharmacies can have a more direct and lasting effect on their customers’ heart health through such efforts as education and ensuring medication adherence.
The American Heart Association predicted that the cardiovascular disease epidemic, estimated to affect more than 80 million Americans, will have direct and indirect costs of more than $500 billion this year, while fewer than half of the highest-risk people are receiving treatment to lower the lipids in their blood, and one-third of those receiving treatment are achieving their desired levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
But according to a survey of 723 American adults ages 40 years and older commissioned by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and conducted by Opinion Research Corp., 62% of respondents said they ranked pharmacies and pharmacists high as being good sources of information in helping them manage such conditions as diabetes, high cholesterol and high amounts of blood fat called triglycerides, an aspect of heart health often overshadowed by LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol.
“Pharmacists have knowledge of patient conditions and medications and, for those with very high triglycerides, can help meet the specific needs of the patient by directing [him or her] to the right medication, in addition to the proper diet and lifestyle changes,” Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy Kelly Goode stated regarding the study.
One way to fight triglycerides is with omega-3 fatty acids, which can be obtained from supplements, prescription drugs and such foods as salmon and walnuts. According to the survey, 61% of respondents said they would be open to talking to their pharmacists to learn more about prescription omega-3 fish oils.
“It just reaffirms that the pharmacist is part of that healthcare team and plays an important role in educating patients,” GSK spokeswoman Bernadette King told Drug Store News. Supermarket pharmacies could have a role to play as well, especially because many have both a pharmacist and a dietician on staff.
But in a more direct sense, pharmacists can improve patients’ heart health by using technology to ensure that those taking medications adhere to treatments. In December, pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions announced a 26-week study with the Illinois state government, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, the Illinois Pharmacists Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association-owned Mirixa Corp. to close the medication adherence gap among Illinois state employees with chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.
The UIC College of Pharmacy will provide clinical training and guidance to up to 100 community pharmacists on how to identify and address adherence problems. Meanwhile, Medco will analyze prescription drug records on a daily basis to identify patients who have potential problems with medication adherence.
“This large-scale study tests, under actual field conditions, several vital aspects of real healthcare reform,” Medco president and COO Kenny Klepper stated. “It transforms traditional competitors into collaborators; creates a partnership across private business, public employers and research institutions; and leverages advanced technology using evidence-based protocols to efficiently identify and effectively close gaps in care for patients [with] complex conditions…who account for 96% of all drug costs and 75% of all medical spending.”