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Pharmacists can help patients control hypertension, study finds
January 21st, 2014
TORONTO – A study by the Ontario Pharmacists Association and health benefits provider Green Shield Canada shows that pharmacists can play a key role in helping hypertension patients improve their health by substantially lowering their blood pressure.
The association said Monday that the study, launched in late 2011, examined the impact of a six-month hypertension management program at 38 community pharmacies in Ontario.
The participants in the randomized controlled trial, 118 uncontrolled hypertensive patients, met regularly with their pharmacists, who provided medication and lifestyle counseling and monitored blood pressure.
According to the Ontario Pharmacists Association, the results of the initiative, which were just released, were "outstanding." The program quadrupled the number of patients who were able to get their blood pressure under control, with an average reduction in systolic blood pressure of 13.5mm Hg. The association noted that studies have shown that a reduction of 10mm-12mm Hg could reduce a patient's chances of experiencing cardiovascular events and stroke by up to 50%.
Adherence to medication therapy also rose by 15%, and overall antihypertensive medication costs dropped by 31%.
What's more, patients in the study reported a high level of satisfaction with the pharmacists' services, in particular the lifestyle consultations.
The association noted that over 4 million Canadians have high blood pressure, yet less than a third have their condition under control.
"This study demonstrates that when pharmacists are able to take a leadership role in supporting people living with chronic disease, they can make a difference by improving the health of patients and delivering significant savings to the healthcare system," Dennis Darby, chief executive officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said in a statement. "Providing expert, innovative and accessible care to patients is central to pharmacists' evolving role, and we are pleased to see the outcomes of that care demonstrated so positively."
The Ontario Pharmacists Association and Green Shield pointed out that the improvements in medication adherence in the study are of particular interest, since they are likely to translate to lower rates of absenteeism in the workplace. A 2012 study on the impact of medication adherence on employee absenteeism and short-term disability, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed that adherent hypertensive patients had 5.2 fewer absent days and 3.5 fewer short-term disability days annually than nonadherent patients.
"When I talk to Canadian employers, a constant worry is the need to control costs in order to ensure their benefit plans remain viable and sustainable," stated Steve Bradie, president and CEO at Green Shield Canada, one of the nation's largest health and dental benefits providers. "The bottom line is that this study proves that for a modest investment in health management counseling services, employers can influence better health outcomes, increase drug therapy adherence and, in the end, lower overall plan costs."
Both the Ontario Pharmacists Association and Green Shield Canada said they aim to begin a dialogue with employers to identify opportunities to implement similar initiatives in their benefit programs.