Ann Arbor, MI—A new review of clinical literature offers strong evidence that community pharmacists have a critical role to play in providing clinical preventive services.

The article published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a publication of the CDC, documents examples by searching PubMed with the key word “community pharmacy” and key words from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations rated A or B.

The University of Michigan College of Pharmacy–led study presents four descriptive summaries of clinical preventive services that could be offered by community pharmacists.

Those include:
• Counseling women of childbearing potential about folic acid for the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs).
• Asking adults about tobacco use and providing them cessation interventions if they use tobacco products.
• Screening for osteoporosis, using methods such as the FRAX tool, which assesses an individual’s 10-year risk of osteoporotic fracture based on age, sex, presence of rheumatoid arthritis or secondary causes of osteoporosis, fracture history, family history of fracture, bone mineral density, smoking status, body mass index, alcohol use, and glucocorticoid use.
• Testing to increase early treatment for chronic infectious diseases, such as HIV.

“Historically in the United States, overall use of preventive health services has been low, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, people who are uninsured, and people who have low incomes,” study authors explain. “Increased attention has been given to preventive health care in recent years because of implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which requires that most health plans cover A and B recommendations with no cost-sharing to the patient.”

Community pharmacists might be “particularly well positioned to increase appropriate use of services, either through direct delivery of services or by providing education and referrals,” they add. “Because 90% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, there is opportunity for other health care and public health professionals to partner with community pharmacists to expand the population’s access to clinical preventive services.”

In fact, the researchers note that as many as 100,000 lives could be saved in the United States each year with widespread adoption of just five recommendations: daily aspirin use for adults with cardiovascular disease risk, advising smokers to quit and offering assistance in quitting, annual influenza vaccine for patients aged 50 years or older, colorectal cancer screening for adults aged 50 years or older, and breast cancer screening for women aged 40 years or older.

The report concludes, “Pharmacists have demonstrated their utility in many areas, including chronic disease management. Similarly, community pharmacists can improve population health through the provision of clinical preventive services. To expand population coverage for clinical preventive services, public health and health care professionals should consider including community pharmacies because of their expertise and unique accessibility.”

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