September 19, 2012

CDC Calls on Pharmacists to Fight Uncontrolled Blood Pressure

Atlanta—Pharmacists are in the trenches in the public health service’s war against uncontrolled blood pressure.

In a new Vital Signs report, the CDC points out that the majority of Americans with high blood pressure see their doctors at least twice a year and take medication, but their condition remains out of control. Nearly a third of American adults—67 million—have high blood pressure, and more than half of those—36 million—don’t have it under control, according to the report.

The CDC is teaming up with pharmacists in a new effort called Team Up. Pressure Down. That initiative came out of a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation for team-based care for blood pressure control.

Pharmacists are a key part of that team. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of pharmacist-directed care in improving management of major cardiovascular risk factors in outpatients, the CDC noted.

As part of the program, CDC recommends the following actions by pharmacists:

• Ask basic questions such as, “Do you have questions about your prescription(s)?” to help determine if patients understand their condition, risks, and the importance of medication adherence.
• For hypertensive patients on multiple medications, talk about the unique role each drug plays, and the importance of taking them as directed and getting refills on time.
• Suggest that patients with adherence issues use a reminder aid or a pillbox to organize their medication(s).
• Discuss possible side effects with patients, methods to manage symptoms, and when to contact their physicians for a change in treatment, emphasizing that the medications should be taken exactly as prescribed until the doctor makes a change.
• Make sure patients know their blood pressure targets and suggest they regularly monitor their blood pressure, either with at-home monitoring equipment or a pharmacy in-store monitoring device.
• Recommend that patients check blood pressure twice per day for at least a week—once in the morning before they take their medication(s) and once in the evening—and log that information in the “Team Up. Pressure Down” blood pressure journal.
• Offer to review their blood pressure results during their next pharmacy visit to see if the medication is working correctly.
• Educate patients about helpful lifestyle changes, such as a low-sodium diet, exercise, weight loss, and limiting alcohol. Also inquire about major hypertension risk factors such as smoking.

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