The pharmacist's role in chronic disease management

Are you living with one or more chronic diseases? Did you know that your pharmacist can help you better manage your health? Here's how.


Chronic diseases at a glance

Today, people are living and staying active much longer than ever before. However, increased longevity does not necessarily mean better health. Various factors related to current lifestyles such as physical inactivity, stress, smoking and poor eating habits can contribute to the development of what are known as "chronic diseases".

These are slow-changing, long-term conditions that often cannot be completely cured. They are often associated with a reduction in quality of life, ability to function, and sometimes life expectancy. The older we get, the greater the risk of chronic disease. However, they can affect Canadians of all ages.

There are a multitude of chronic diseases affecting various organs and systems of the human body. Here are some examples of common chronic diseases that affect thousands of Canadians:

  • diabetes
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • dyslipidemia (high cholesterol)
  • heart and blood vessel diseases (atherosclerosis, heart failure, stroke, etc.)
  • respiratory diseases (asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, etc.)
  • skin conditions (eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, etc.)
  • joint diseases (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, etc.)
  • osteoporosis, and
  • certain cancers


First, prevention

When referring to chronic diseases, the issue of prevention needs to be addressed. For most chronic diseases, factors can be identified that increase the risk of developing the disease or make it worse.

Some are non-modifiable, such as age, sex, ethnicity and family history. However, modifiable factors can be controlled to a certain extent. Common prevention measures include the following:

  • maintain a healthy weight
  • eat healthy
  • stay physically active
  • quit smoking
  • learn to better manage stress
  • take certain supplements
  • etc.

Your pharmacist can provide you with information on various chronic disease prevention measures and, in some cases, provide support. The best example is smoking cessation. Pharmacists can work with you to develop an action plan and even prescribe smoking cessation aids. They can support you every step of the way and provide excellent advice.

If you have already been diagnosed with a chronic disease, your pharmacist can suggest lifestyle changes that could improve disease management and slow its progression.


Drug treatment management

Pharmacists are first and foremost medication experts, and it turns out that the majority of chronic diseases require medication to be taken, often on a daily basis. Medication management is an important and complex aspect of chronic disease management. Your pharmacist is responsible for ensuring that your drug therapy is optimal and safe, and for providing you with all relevant information. This includes checking the following:

  • choice of medication (vs. other options)
  • contraindications and warnings
  • risks of side effects or drug interactions
  • dosage and directions for use

Pharmacists are always on the lookout for potential problems and ways to optimize your treatment. To this end, they can:

  • contact the prescriber to suggest changes
  • make changes themselves
  • prescribe additional treatments

If necessary and after analysis, they can also prolong your treatment to avoid any interruption.


Adherence to treatment

When taking medication for a chronic disease, adherence to treatment is essential. Medications must be taken properly every day and for the right period of time. For many people, this is a challenge. It is important that you understand why you have been prescribed each medication and what the benefits are for you. Ask your pharmacist clarify this for you.

Your pharmacist can also make suggestions that can help you take your medication properly, such as the following:

  • change your medication schedule
  • changing the formulation of your medication
  • offer you a pill-packing service
  • give you tips to help you remember to take your medication
  • offer you the pre-authorized renewal service
  • inform you about all the other services that can help you manage your daily medications


Follow-up measures

In order to manage a chronic disease, some follow-up is necessary. Here are a few examples. If you have diabetes, you need to monitor your blood sugar levels closely. The pharmacist and the pharmacy team can help you with this. The same is true for hypertension, which requires close monitoring of blood pressure. If you live with asthma, your pharmacist can review the use of your medication delivery devices with you. Ask about the services available at your pharmacy.

In some cases, laboratory tests may be required to check treatment effectiveness and safety. The pharmacist can assess the results of some tests and even prescribe them for you.

Pharmacists are knowledgeable about health and chronic disease management. They can help you in various ways that go beyond those mentioned above. Make them your ally!


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The pharmacist's role in chronic disease management

Are you living with one or more chronic diseases? Did you know that your pharmacist can help you better manage your health? Here's how.
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