The “Sustainable Solutions Report: Pharmacist Interventions in Diabetes,” released in March as part of Canada’s observance of Pharmacist Awareness Month, shows how pharmacists supported diabetes management and influenced improvements in health outcomes for participants in a research study. It also illustrates how these same benefits could be expanded for all Canadians living with diabetes.
Using the results of a five-minute finger prick blood test (A1c test), SDM pharmacists provided participating Great-West Life plan members with appropriate lifestyle counselling, medication recommendations and, where necessary, physician referrals.
For those patients who returned for a second test, the study found that the number of patients who reached their target tripled after the first intervention with an SDM pharmacist, about half of all patients with a follow-up appointment had a clinically significant reduction in their blood sugar levels, and the number of patients who met their target increased fourfold after the pharmacist consulted with their physician.
The study also concluded that among patients who were not initially at target and received a therapy change, half successfully reached target by their follow-up appointment.
Monitoring average blood sugar levels through pharmacist-administered A1c testing can provide important information to assist with optimal diabetes management. The report includes supporting research in which SDM pharmacists provided patients with a range of interventions that escalated depending on the severity of the A1c test results. These interventions included discussions about diet, nutrition, exercise and insulin, if applicable; adjustment of the patient’s medication; follow-up appointments; and physician referrals.
These results are considered significant because diabetes rates in Canada are rising fast, not only affecting the health of Canadians but also placing greater costs and strain on the nation’s health care system.
There were an estimated 2.7 million Canadians living with diabetes in 2010, and that number is expected to rise to 4.2 million by 2020. The cost associated with treating those with diabetes is also significant — it was estimated at $12.2 billion (Canadian) in 2010 and is projected to rise to $16.9 billion by 2020.
This report shows that pharmacists are uniquely positioned to be part of the solution by improving diabetes management and health outcomes for patients while reducing costs for the health care system and insurers. Complications from diabetes account for more than 80% of the associated costs of the disease, and appropriate interventions by pharmacists can prevent or at least delay those complications, including such serious events as heart attack or stroke.