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Pharmacist-Physician Collaboration Improves Outcomes

Jeff Elliott for HealthLeaders Media, October 18, 2010

Pharmacists might soon be leaving the confines of their drug-filled fortresses to work alongside primary care physicians. Two studies indicate that adding pharmacists to the primary care team for joint care management increases medical benefits.

In an American Diabetes Association report, researchers analyze the impact of pharmacists on controlling hypertension and other cardiovascular health issues in patients with type 2 diabetes. Over a six-year period, the multidisciplinary team monitored 260 patients' blood pressure at Edmonton, Alberta-are primary care clinics, 153 of whom were not adequately controlling their hypertension.

Study participants achieved an approximate 10% decrease in systolic blood pressure within one year, which translates into a 3% reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by patients who received intervention, according to according to co-author Scot H. Simpson, BSP, PharmD, MSc.

"Pharmacists can take responsibility to monitor the effects of drug therapy and, working in collaboration with the physician and other members of the healthcare team, recommend alternatives to resolve or prevent drug-related problems," says Simpson, faculty of pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Alberta. "Pharmacists can use their knowledge of pharmacology, therapeutics and drug interactions to recommend different treatment options, change dosages or add drugs when patients are not achieving guideline-based treatment targets."

Additionally, the presence of a pharmacist tended improve patients' adherence to medications, according to Simpson. "One of the most surprising observations was that approximately 40 percent of patients had changes to their antihypertensive medications, yet we saw a significant improvement in blood pressure control for the intervention group," he says.

A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that when pharmacists collaborate with physicians to find the best medication treatments, as well as advise on lifestyle and dietary improvements, they are able to significantly lower ambulatory care patients' blood pressure.

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