A recent survey of pharmacy patients across Canada shows that nearly three-quarters of those polled have talked to a pharmacist about health issues beyond those related to their prescriptions.

Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, CACDS, pharmacists, pharmacy patients, Canada, Nielsen survey, Nadine Saby, Pharmacy Awareness Week, Alasdair McKichan, health care system in Canada, pharmacy, pharmacy staff, pharmacy services

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CACDS tracks growing reliance on pharmacists

March 26th, 2012
by Alasdair McKichan

TORONTO – A recent survey of pharmacy patients across Canada shows that nearly three-quarters of those polled have talked to a pharmacist about health issues beyond those related to their prescriptions.

The Nielsen survey of 6,000 people, done for the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, shows that 72% of respondents have relied on their pharmacist for information about their health.

CACDS president and chief executive officer Nadine Saby says she is encouraged by the results of the poll, which was released to coincide with the start of Canada’s Pharmacy Awareness Week earlier this month.

“Pharmacists are highly trained health care professionals whose expertise is still under­utilized by our health care system in Canada and indeed around the world,” she says. Saby notes, however, that the situation is rapidly evolving and pharmacy is becoming more recognized as an integral part of the health care system.

“Governments recognize the valuable role pharmacy plays in ensuring patients get the right medication and are able to take it correctly,” she says. “Now, by enabling and providing funding for new services like medication reviews, injections and immunizations, and prescription renewals without a doctor’s visit, patients are reaping the benefits in the form of more convenient and timely access to professional health advice and guidance.”

CACDS, as well as the national and provincial professional associations, has been heavily involved for the past several years in advocating that pharmacists be empowered to play a larger role in delivering patient services.

The associations have been pressing their case within a system in which physicians’ time is often taken up with issues that could be dealt with readily in local pharmacies and in which emergency departments of hospitals are usually overburdened.

That advocacy has been increasingly productive as provincial governments move ­— unevenly but progressively — toward allowing pharmacists to make fuller use of their knowledge and skills.

Though some pharmacies have been enthusiastic in fully utilizing the new powers that their professional staffs now have, that reaction has been far from universal.

Saby expects that full utilization of the expanded scope of practice will take time.

“Introduction of the new powers came simultaneously with changes — most significantly, reductions — in the remuneration for traditional dispensing services,” she says. “Some of the newly authorized services require investments, others require pharmacists to undertake special training courses, and in some cases there has to be cooperation worked out with other medical sectors.”

Signs of the cooperation to which Saby refers are already starting to emerge. The Canadian Diabetes Association, for instance, has been partnering with community pharmacy in providing “tool kits” for pharmacists to assist them in their conduct of counseling sessions with diabetes patients. Several large pharmacy chains have also recently introduced diabetes awareness and testing ­programs.

Saby says these initiatives are likely to have positive effects on levels of patient/pharmacist interactions on the disease.

The CACDS survey shows that “trust in the pharmacy staff’s knowledge and advice” was cited as the most influential consideration when people were making a decision about the pharmacy they utilized.

Other factors that guided pharmacy choice are location, pharmacist accessibility, quick service, the depth of pharmacy services offered, preferred brands always stocked, a wide assortment of products and prescription delivery.

Saby says that she and the management of CACDS’ member companies were heartened that the respondents — who had been asked to express the viewpoint of the household they represented — demonstrated that for a high proportion of them the professional skills and attitudes of pharmacists outranked even location as the dominant influence in their selection of a pharmacy.

Respondents attached strong importance to the concept of close cooperation between their doctor and pharmacist. When asked to rate the importance of this issue, over 79% of them, on a national basis, indicated “strong agreement,” compared with 16.7% who accorded only a “somewhat agree” rating.

Meanwhile, many respondents indicated concern about the plague of drug shortages.
Saby says that, given the strenuous efforts community pharmacists have undertaken to shield their patients from the effects of the recurrent shortages, it is surprising that such a significant proportion of them have been affected by the problem.

Experiences with drug shortages have been reasonably consistent across the country, with the exception of Quebec, where, perhaps because a disproportionate share of drug manufacturers are located there, the effects have been less severe.

The survey found that the drug shortages experienced by patients in Ontario are more the norm.

Nearly 48% of the patients polled in the province reported that their pharmacy had been unable to fill a prescription immediately but was able to bring in the required drug from another outlet. Slightly less than a quarter noted that their pharmacist had been unable to fill the prescription with the prescribed medication but, with their consent, had provided an alternative drug; and 36.7% had experienced the situation where the pharmacist was unable to fill a prescription because the prescribed medication was not available.