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Quality of care

Increasing confidence: Pharmacists reducing medications and improving patients’ lives

By Heidi Wicks

Cyril Synard and his partner, Kathy Hickman, weren’t confident he was on the right combination of medications to manage his COPD.

“I was a heavy smoker for years, I’ve been on different puffers for the last seven or eight years and after talking to different friends who also have COPD, I was wondering if I was really on the best combination of medications.”

From left are Kathy Hickman and Cyril Synard.
Photo: Submitted

COPD is a condition that affects 15,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador and is the most expensive health condition in the country, according to Statistics Canada.

Bettering patients’ lives

Dr. Cathy Balsom is a pharmacist in the School of Pharmacy’s Medication Therapy Services (MTS) Clinic.

The clinic is making a change, for the better, in patients’ lives.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mr. Synard’s experience at the clinic.

Dr. Balsom says that similar to community pharmacies, pharmacists at the clinic work with patients to navigate through their medication regimes.

“We help them sort through things if they’re confused and overwhelmed by what they’re taking, and try to simplify their routines so that they can ultimately have an improved quality of life,” she said.

New initiative

Dr. Debbie Kelly is the director of the MTS Clinic and associate professor in the School of Pharmacy.

She is also the co-lead on SaferMedsNL, a new provincial initiative aimed at reducing inappropriate medication use and promoting dialogue between patients and their health providers.

Dr. Debbie Kelly
Dr. Debbie Kelly
Photo: David Howells

The MTS Clinic is aimed at helping patients with complex medical or drug therapy problems.

The clinic works with physicians and community pharmacists to ensure patients are on the best medications for them, which sometimes includes deprescribing unnecessary or potentially harmful medications.

“We’re also committed to generating evidence to inform health policy and best practice when it comes to patient care,” said Dr. Kelly.

“We evaluate the impact of the services we provide and support the important work of community pharmacists. And our students complete clinical placements at the clinic, so we’re a teaching and learning centre, too.”

“Drug regimens can be complex . . . That can get overwhelming.” — Dr. Cathy Balsom

There are a number of reasons and scenarios that could lead to patients becoming confused by their medications, says Dr. Balsom.

She says that people may take medications for many years and not truly understand why, with the original indication possibly no longer present.

“In many cases, a drug can be used for multiple different indications and people can be confused about what they’re taking medication for,” she said.

“Patients often get educated on their medications when they’re first prescribed, but they don’t often retain all of the information given. And drug regimens can be complex — after a heart attack, for example, a patient usually starts on three or more new medications and patients with diabetes can be on over four medications, plus injections. That can get overwhelming.”

On March 12, Dr. Balsom will be taking over the School of Pharmacy’s Facebook account.

Dr. Cathy Balsom will takeover Facebook on March 12.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“I’ll be doing a number of clinic-related posts throughout the day, to give people a series of snapshots behind the kind of work that we do,” she said. “I hope people will tune in, and follow us, and consider whether the service is something that could fit the needs of them or a loved one.”

And keep an eye on your Twitter on March 19 when Dr. Kelly takes over the School of Pharmacy’s Twitter feed to discuss some of the research behind deprescribing.

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