Simply put, a consultant pharmacist is one of the nation’s best resources in reducing inappropriate or poorly managed use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. For solutions to today’s complex medication challenges, the pharmacy profession continues to move beyond filling prescriptions and taking on a greater role in direct patient care. This patient-focused philosophy is known as pharmaceutical care, and consultant pharmacists are on the leading edge. A broader use of pharmaceutical care strategies is one key to reducing the staggering human and economic toll of “medication misadventures,” a toll estimated to exceed $100 billion each year. Some of those strategies include:
- Regular reviews of patients’ medication regimens to alleviate problems before they arise and help ensure patients are free of unnecessary medications
- Enhanced monitoring to fine-tune drug therapy for optimal results
- Recommendations of strategies to promote proper medication use and improve compliance with complex drug regimens
- Increased collaboration among pharmacists and other members of the health care team in overall care planning and drug therapy decision-making
These are some of the medication management strategies consultant pharmacists have implemented in the nation’s nursing homes, where patients receive complex combinations of medications and typically suffer from chronic conditions that make them more sensitive to the potentially harmful effects of improper medication use. Research indicates that each year in nursing homes alone, consultant pharmacist services save an estimated $3.6 billion in prevented hospitalizations and reduced medication costs. Sometimes a small adjustment in the dose of a drug, or a switch to a different drug of the same type, can make a tremendous difference in effectiveness.