The Role of Pharmacists in Diabetes Management

In most people’s mind, the role of the pharmacist in diabetes management is centered around the supply of medicines and possibly patient counseling. In recent years, this role has been expanding to a range of extended services, including patient identification, assessment, education, referral and monitoring.

In many countries, pharmacists supply a range of products dealing with diabetes such as prescription and nonprescription medication, blood glucose meters and testing strips, needles and swabs as well as dietary supplements. Pharmacists often also provide a wide range of services such as medication review, unit dose dispensing, needle exchange, point of care testing, vaccination and disposal of unwanted medicines.

Pharmacists represent one of the largest health professions in the world and often the most accessible one, as no appointments are required to see them, and they have a high level of patient contact. Routine and simple tests such as blood glucose testing conducted at pharmacies around the world are an example of how pharmacists may provide an efficient method for identifying a person with type 2 diabetes and help direct them to appropriate medical attention. In many cases, pharmacists also provide counseling about glucose levels monitoring and how to manage out-of-range levels, including developing an action plan for what to do if sugar levels go too low.

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Sometimes, pharmacists also assist persons living with type 2 diabetes select the most appropriate hypoglycemic management strategy and counsel on appropriate diets and exercise routines to compliment medication management in treating diabetes.  All of this makes pharmacists key players in the wellness journey of persons living with diabetes, not just in terms of screening but in the lifelong management of the disease.

Approximately 90% of pharmacies in England currently offer the ‘New Medicines Services’ that aim to enable persons living with type 2 diabetes to improve self-care and to encourage them to take prescribed medication. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) recently called for full integration of pharmacists into type 2 diabetes services to increase prevention and detection of the condition and improve care.

In France, tailored information provided by the pharmacist to patients with type 2 diabetes was associated with a significant decrease in HbA1c and an improvement of patient knowledge about diabetes. In the United States, pharmacies are often involved with diabetes self-management training and many pharmacists have extensive training in diabetes management and motivational interviewing.

Recognizing that diabetes can affect almost all aspects of person’s lives, it’s clear that pharmacists around the world can change the lives of these individuals. They can make it easier for persons living with diabetes to manage their condition by providing education, screening, immunizations and medication therapy management services such as adherence counseling and addressing gaps in care. These steps can improve diabetes management outcomes and help ensure that patients manage their medications and adhere to their therapies, which in turn controls costs and prevents hospital or urgent care visits.

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