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Published in CenterView on February 25, 2013
Amber Higgs, left, PY4, practices taking the blood pressure of Sarah Ali, M1, while, from left, Mina Tahai, M1, Jessica Alexander, PY4 and Ke’Andrea Kelly, PY4, calibrate cholesterol machines.
Amber Higgs, left, PY4, practices taking the blood pressure of Sarah Ali, M1, while, from left, Mina Tahai, M1, Jessica Alexander, PY4 and Ke’Andrea Kelly, PY4, calibrate cholesterol machines.

School of Pharmacy hosts event to highlight importance of medication adherence

By Matt Westerfield

Take a moment to think about what’s in your medicine cabinet.

Any old prescription bottles rattling around in there?

It might not seem like a big deal, but recent studies have revealed that Americans’ lazy attitude toward medications has some shocking consequences.

Here’s just one statistic: Half of the 3.2 billion annual prescriptions written in the U.S. aren’t taken as prescribed, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The persistent misuse and underuse of prescribed medications has a resounding impact on a patient’s quality of life, as well as our health-care system.

That’s the message School of Pharmacy faculty and students are taking to the community. On Feb. 26 they hosted a “Script Your Future” health screening and educational outreach at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center.

Script Your Future” is a national public awareness campaign sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the National Consumers League. The effort pays particular attention to chronic diseases like diabetes, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease.

“We Have focused our efforts on cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Lauren Bloodworth, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and director of Student Affairs/Student Professional Development. “We will screen patients for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol as well as assess cardiovascular health risk.”

The pharmacy school hosted a smaller-scale health screening last spring, but this year faculty and students have taken an inter-professional approach. Bloodworth said approximately 30 medical students volunteered to take part in the event alongside 20 pharmacy students. Occupational therapy students from the School of Health Related Professions and graduate nursing students also participated, rounding out the multidisciplinary effort.

Recent studies have shown that every year, roughly 125,000 deaths in the U.S. are related to patients not adhering to their medications. This also leads to billions of dollars in costs related to the treatment of chronic conditions that have spiraled out of control.

These studies throw into stark relief the impact that non-adherence, or poor follow-through, has nationwide. And it’s a concern that will only grow as the “Baby Boomer” generation ages and places a greater demand on prescription medications.

The goal of the “Script Your Future” event is simply “to educate patients on why it’s important to take their medicines as prescribed, to get their refills on time so that they can control their chronic diseases — and to continue taking them even if they feel fine,” Bloodworth said.

“Oftentimes, that’s when a stroke can happen, because they’ve stopped taking their medication.”

The second goal, of equal importance, is providing health professional students face-to-face experiences with patients in the community.

“I think it helps make you a well-rounded professional to have one-on-one experience with the patients,” said Kelli Turbyfill, a fourth-professional-year student who participated in the event. “You learn a lot about the different kinds of patients that you’re going to have when you graduate.

“Not every patient is going to be adherent to their medicines and their health, and you have to be able to adapt to their learning style or education level. So any patient interactions are good for that.”

Jessica Alexander, PY4, pointed out that the health screening also helps students hone their clinical skills before graduating.

“I think it’s good for me before we graduate to make sure we’re comfortable doing these screenings, because we’re about to have to do that for ourselves,” she said. “Right now, this is time for us to be comfortable doing it on all types of patients while we have teachers still with us.”

“It’s also a chance to work more as a team with medical students, nursing and health related professions students,” added Amber Higgs, PY4.

The students are busy with clinical rotations this semester. In fact, the PY4 year consists of eight different five-week advanced pharmacy practice experiences, four of which are electives, said Dr. Kristopher Harrell, associate professor pharmacy practice and director of the Professional Experience Programs.

Turbyfill is in the middle of a community-based research experience, spending time at several clinics in the Delta, monitoring the progress patients are making with their diabetes and hypertension.

“You want to prevent the patients from coming to the hospital,” Harrell said. “They first have to have access to care. Where Kelli is spending her rotation in Yazoo City and Vicksburg, there is less access; there are fewer providers there. And pharmacists are the most accessible providers.

“You can walk up to a pharmacist no matter what. You can’t always do that with a physician or a nurse practitioner. And the second part is education; it’s important to educate patients and make sure they are taking their medications correctly.”

“This event is a great avenue for our students to directly interact with patients through the screenings,” said Dr. Leigh Ann Ross, associate dean for clinical affairs and chair of pharmacy practice.

“A lot of these patients don’t have a health-care home, so it’s also a way to hopefully influence their care down the line and help them realize that they can take control to improve their medical conditions and outcomes.”