Magazine article Drug Topics

Spread the Word

Magazine article Drug Topics

Spread the Word

Article excerpt

If pharmacists ever expect anyone to pay for their services, they better stop preaching to the converted in their own ranks and start communicating their pharmaceutical care message to the people in front of the counter, advised a top consumer advocate.

Pharmacists need to be talking to consumers, other health-care professionals, and the media, said Linda Golodner, president of the National Consumer League, an organization that is committed to pharmaceutical care. Golodner was speaking at the recent Invitational Conference on Pharmacist Care, cosponsored by the American College of Apothecaries and NARD, with an unrestricted educational grant from Rhone-Poulenc Rorer.

"Build it and they will come might have worked in Field of Dreams, but it's not going to work in pharmacist care," she said. "There is a window of opportunity. You've got to seize it. You've got to bring other people into the room."

Pharmacoeconomic research has given pharmacists plenty of the ammunition they need to deliver the message, said Jack Fincham, dean and professor of pharmacy practice, University of Kansas School of Pharmacy (see sidebar). In his keynote address, Fincham pointed to a recent University of Arizona study illustrating the enormity of the arena in which pharmacists could have a positive impact on patient care. The researchers calculated that improper medication use alone in the United States costs $76 billion annually.

Alluding to cost savings documented by pharmacoeconomic studies, consumer champion Golodner said the profession possesses "great numbers" that pharmacists need to learn to market to their advantage. "Get this information out to Newsweek, the news wires, Parade magazine," she urged, "but there must be passion in your numbers. Put some faces on the statistics so you can really focus on consumers. You've got to say, This could be your mother, this could be your father."

Opening a dialogue with others was an idea seconded by Philip Gerbino, president, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy & Science. "We may be a bit remiss for not inviting medicine and perhaps nursing to this conference," he said. "They are our partners in providing care to patients. Frankly, many groups are meeting like this today in other disciplines, trying to [determine] their strategic directions to serve humanity and be reimbursed. I am concerned that we not have these discussions in isolation. Perhaps next time we might include some of our partners who are looking to be part of a coalition for the same objectives."

The health-care system cannot afford to remain fragmented; it must move to continuity of care. Pharmacists who want to be part of that team cannot afford to remain identified solely on the basis of the drug product, Fincham said. "Third-party programs that carve out the prescription benefit, look at it in isolation, and focus on it only as a commodity do a disservice to the profession and to the patients," he commented.

Pharmacists need to be brought inside the health-care tent to reduce that $76 billion annual cost of improper medication use, said William Smith, R.Ph., assistant director of pharmacy, Geisinger Health Plan, a rural group HMO based in Pennsylvania. If hospital R.Ph.s, for example, were taking patient medical histories, it would be easier to pinpoint admissions due to drug misadventures. …

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