Monday, January 20, 2014

Pharmacists can help millions of Canadians who suffer from high blood pressure get healthier - study finds

TORONTO, Ontario January 20, 2014 /Canada NewsWire/ - More than four million Canadians have high blood pressure - yet less than one-third have their condition under control.

A just-released study by the Ontario Pharmacists Association and Green Shield Canada has shown that pharmacists can play a key role in helping patients with hypertension improve their health by substantially lowering their blood pressure.

Launched in late 2011, the study examined the impact of a six-month hypertension management program in which 118 uncontrolled hypertensive patients met regularly with their pharmacists, who provided medication and lifestyle counselling and monitored blood pressure. The randomized controlled trial took place at 38 community pharmacies across Ontario.

The results 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. (Studies have shown that a reduction of 10-12mm Hg could reduce a patient's chances of experiencing cardiovascular events and stroke by up to 50 per cent.) In addition, adherence to medication therapy increased by 15 per cent while overall antihypertensive medication costs dropped by 31 per cent.

Patients participating in the study reported a high level of satisfaction with the pharmacists' services, in particular the lifestyle counselling.

"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," said Dennis Darby, Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Pharmacists Association. "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."

Improvements in adherence can help lower rates of workplace absenteeism

The improvements in adherence which were highlighted by the study are of particular interest in that 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, which was 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 non-adherent 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," says Steve Bradie, President and CEO at Green Shield Canada, one of Canada's largest health and dental benefits providers. "The bottom line is that this study proves that for a modest investment in health management counselling services, employers can influence better health outcomes, increase drug therapy adherence and, in the end, lower overall plan costs. Now that's a difference maker in the Canadian healthcare system."

The study has demonstrated that a pharmacist-led hypertension management program, provided within the context of a health benefit plan, would be a cost-effective return on investment that produces healthier, more productive employees.

Both the Ontario Pharmacists Association and Green Shield Canada are hoping to open up a dialogue with employers to identify opportunities to implement similar initiatives in their benefit programs.

About the Ontario Pharmacists Association

The Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) is the largest advocacy organization, continuing education and drug information provider for pharmacy professionals in Canada. Representing pharmacists, pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians across the province, OPA is driven to help evolve the practice of pharmacy and to advocate for the highest standards of professional excellence in practice and patient care. By leveraging the unique expertise of pharmacy professionals, by enabling them to practice to their fullest potential, and by making them more accessible to all Ontarians, OPA and its 8,200 members are working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the province's healthcare system.

About Green Shield Canada

Green Shield Canada (GSC) is a benefits specialist. It's what they do. But as Canada's only national not-for-profit health and dental specialist, their reason for being is the enhancement of the common good. GSC seeks out innovative ways to improve access to better health for Canadians. From coast-to-coast, their service delivery includes drug, dental, extended health care, vision, hospital and travel benefits for groups and individuals, as well as administration services. Supported by cost containment strategies, advanced technology and exceptional customer service, they create customized programs for over one and a half million plan participants nation-wide.

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