Magazine article Drug Topics

R.Ph.S Needed to Overcome 'Consumer Fear' of Medicines

Magazine article Drug Topics

R.Ph.S Needed to Overcome 'Consumer Fear' of Medicines

Article excerpt

"Smart medicine needs smart patients," said Robert Bachman, executive director of the National Council on Patient Information & Education. Seen from his Washington, D.C., office, Americans desperately need the kind of hand-holding that pharmacists do best.

Half of the 1.6 billion prescriptions we take every year are taken incorrectly, he told a recent patient consultation symposium organized by the University of California-San Francisco school of pharmacy. In addition, he said, "there is ample evidence that people are afraid of their medicines. The combination of consumer ignorance and consumer fear is deadly."

The drugs themselves can be deadly, too, or can seem that way to uninformed patients. "A prescription drug is the only product for which the consumer gets no information at all on how to use it or what it will do," complained California senior Senator and consumer activist Ed Kramer. "The problem with high-tech drugs is that the patient must be sold on accepting the side effects," he added.

Problem identified: Kramer, who is undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, isn't alone in feeling he's been kept in the dark. Citing FDA studies, NCPIE charges that more than a third of all patients get no drug information from pharmacist, physician, or anyone else. Pharmacy organizations have recognized the problem; so have the Indian Health Service, the U.S. Inspector General, and the Department of Health Services.

"The federal government," said Bachman, "is finally looking to pharmacy to educate patients, to get involved in patient care and outcomes through counseling. State and federally mandated counseling will help establish counseling as a standard of pharmacy practice nationwide." California will become the 15th state to require counseling next January. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act requires Medicaid patient counseling beginning in 1993.

The push to counseling is also an opportunity to build sales and profits. OTC counseling is a resource that too many pharmacists overlook, warned community pharmacist Al Brill.

"A consult on two Advil," he warned, "is no less medically important than a consultation on Motrin 400 and can earn you more money." A $15 OTC sale typically posts a $6 profit that goes in the bank today. A California Medicaid sale earns just $4.05, and, he added, "you may never get paid."

Reimbursement snag: But there is more to counseling than a simple product sale. There is, or should be, a separate counseling fee. …

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