Magazine article Drug Topics

Poison Centers Pitch Prevention, with Many Targeting Pharmacists

Magazine article Drug Topics

Poison Centers Pitch Prevention, with Many Targeting Pharmacists

Article excerpt

Poison-control centers are bouncing back from neardeath experiences in the mid'90s. Two decades of unstable funding drastically reduced the number of poison centers nationwide-from 661 in 1978 to just 74 in 1998, according to an article in Clinical Toxicology (June 1998). But the survivors have gone on the offensive. Some centers have the resources to pitch prevention directly to the public; many are targeting Poison Prevention Week 1999 (March 21-27) programs at pharmacies.

"It's more practical to deal with 5,000 pharmacies than with 34 million potential patients," said Linda Pope, health education coordinator for the Fresno division of the California Poison System (CPS). "We're encouraging pharmacists to create their own outreach programs."

CPS is putting its efforts into four projects that RPh.s can take back to their pharmacies, Pope explained. Projects include a poison poster contest for elementary school children, 100-sheet notepads with tear-off poison-prevention tips for Rx bagstuffers, health fair presentations on poison prevention, and a pharmacy "pill poster" showing children (and their parents) just how hard it is to distinguish between candy and candy-colored medications. "We want to give pharmacists the tools to get out into the community and do some personal good," Pope said.

CPS, which has just two health educators for the nation's most populous state, is looking to stretch its thin resources. The Pittsburgh Poison Center (PPC) is doing so by partnering with Giant Eagle, a privately held pharmacy chain with stores in westem Pennsylvania. PPC is providing educational materials, said director Edward Krenzelok; Giant Eagle is encouraging staff R.Ph.s to take the poison-prevention message to local schools.

The Pittsburgh program has two goals, Krenzelok said. The immediate need is to educate children about medications, cleaning products, and other potential poisons around the home. The longer-term goal is to educate pharmacists themselves. Of the 78,000 calls PPC logged last year, 80% were from the public; the other 20% came from physicians and nurses. Pharmacists, the most accessible and most often utilized health-care professionals, are often not using the poisoncontrol system, he said.

"They have a very low utilization rate for poison-control centers," he added. "Occasionally, they call for drug IDs, but that's it. R.Ph.s are missing the poison-control boat, and I can guarantee you that they don't know it. They don't get a good background in toxicology from an applied standpoint. …

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