A new report from Pharmaprix/Shoppers Drug Mart highlights the prevalence of complex chronic diseases in Canada and calls government to prioritize prevention and management, including through greater use of pharmacists.

Pharmaprix, Shoppers Drug Mart, chronic diseases, Canada, pharmacists, Denis Roy, Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus on Managing Complex Chronic Diseases

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Pharmaprix: Pharmacists a solution in managing chronic diseases

November 21st, 2013

MONTREAL – A new report from Pharmaprix/Shoppers Drug Mart highlights the prevalence of complex chronic diseases in Canada and calls government to prioritize prevention and management, including through greater use of pharmacists.

The drug chain said Thursday that its study, "Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus on Managing Complex Chronic Diseases," notes that expanding the role of pharmacists is one solution that will reduce the burden of chronic illness on patients and save the system an estimated $1.4 billion to $1.9 billion dollars over three years.

The report also includes survey data showing support from dcotors and patients who want pharmacists to play a larger role in health care delivery.

"Pharmacists already provide advice to patients that take medication to treat chronic conditions, but they can do so much more," Denis Roy, senior director of professional affairs at Pharmaprix, said in a statement. "Governments have identified chronic disease as an immense challenge, and they are investing significant dollars in prevention and treatment of these illnesses. Using pharmacists more effectively can help achieve the goal of improving care for Quebecers and Canadians, while at the same time reducing costs and creating more access to the health care system."

The Sustainable Solutions Report points to three steps governments can take to help pharmacists play a more broader role in the management of chronic diseases: enabling pharmacists to develop and manage patient care plans; allowing pharmacists to make prescription renewals and adaptations for specific drug classes; and improving electronic infrastructure and information-sharing between pharmacists and doctors.

"Patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes stand to benefit significantly by having access to pharmacists that can help them reach their health target, such as providing monthly feedback and support regarding their blood glucose results" explained Roy. "In Quebec, four type 2 diabetics out of 10 are at risk of developing serious complications because they do not reach their treatment goals. Pharmacists see these patients more frequently than any other health care professional and they should be considered by the health care system as medication managers that can help diabetics stay away from the hospital."

Empowering pharmacists to develop and manage patient care plans involving lifestyle management tips and one-on-one or group counseling is one instance of how pharmacists can improve the patient experience while also saving physicians' time and health care dollars, the report noted.

One example of such a program is the Diabetes Care from Head to Toe campaign developed to help people control their diabetes. It also helps those with diabetes work with a pharmacist to monitor their blood sugar levels and medication over time to prevent complications that range from stroke to foot ulcers and include target organ damage in the eye, kidney and heart.

According to Diabetes Quebec, more than 760,000 Quebecers are affected with the disease, and of those people, over 250,000 have uncontrolled diabetes. What's more, at least 200,000 Quebecers are unaware they have diabetes.

"My colleagues and I have a lot to offer to reduce the risk of complications in diabetics," stated Nada Nasreddine, a Pharmaprix pharmacist-owner in Montreal. "We as pharmacists are medication experts and we can play a larger role in helping diabetics control their disease by recommending the appropriate course of treatment."

Also as part of the report, national surveys were conducted of general practitioners and Canadians to determine their views on the role of pharmacists. The polling found that 88% of doctors say they would be open to having more support from other health care professionals to help manage care for their patients with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes or hypertension.

Nearly a third (31%) of family physicians agreed an expanded role for pharmacists will result in patients getting improved management of their chronic diseases. And two in five (40%) say patients will get quicker access to some services.

Physicians agree that an expanded role for pharmacists can benefit the health care system as a whole in ways such as increasing patient adherence with medications (63%), reducing hospital readmissions because of pharmacists conducting drug reviews (50%), and patients getting lifestyle and disease counseling from pharmacists (39%).

Canadians indicated they also want pharmacists to help them better manage their chronic conditions and would make use of their services. The vast majority of Canadians (94%) agree that pharmacists can play a key role in helping people with chronic conditions manage their health, and 87% would like pharmacists to help make sure they take their medication as prescribed.

Complex chronic diseases such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease affect 37% of Canadians and are a factor in 70% of deaths, the report noted. In Quebec, a little over half of the population over the age of 12 suffers from at least one chronic disease.

In 2011, the associated medical costs for individuals with these complex chronic diseases were estimated at $42 billion, or 21% of Canada's total health care spending. That figure is expected to rise to $53 billion by 2015.