APA publishes new resource for pharmacists to engage in tobacco cessation programs

A new resource, developed by the American Pharmacists Association, identifies how pharmacists can engage their patients in tobacco cessation interventions.

The report, “Promising Practices for Pharmacist Engagement in Tobacco Cessation Interventions,” looks at the different ways in which pharmacists can help patients to quit smoking and to overcome significant barriers to success.

“Quit attempts are most successful when supported by evidence-based treatments, including pharmaceutical aids and counseling services. However, when patients decide to quit tobacco, they can encounter significant barriers to accessing needed medications and counseling,” the report said. “Some people may not have access to primary care providers, while others are faced with long wait times to secure appointments with their providers. A recent study showed an average wait of 29.3 days to see a family medicine physician.”

According to the report, 91 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of a community pharmacy, and pharmacists can reach those populations that have a higher prevalence of tobacco use, tobacco dependence, and tobacco-related illnesses.

In January 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) encouraged “easier access to medically necessary and time-sensitive drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries,” including smoking cessation medications. CMS encouraged those patients being able to access that medication without having first to see their family physician.

The report looked at programs across the country and how they had been successful in getting tobacco-cessation programs to their patients.

At Red Lake Indian Health Service, the health care system provides tobacco cessation counseling services on a walk-in basis or by appointment. Pharmacists can support prescription medication therapy, as well as over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy. The services are billed to Minnesota Medicaid.

Other programs highlighted included Veteran Health Indiana, where pharmacists deliver tobacco cessation services to veterans through the U.S. Veterans Health Administration center in Indiana; the Lac Courte Oreilles Community Health Center, where a tribal-run primary care clinic on the Ojibwe reservation allows pharmacists to deliver tobacco cessation counseling and to have prescriptive authority for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved tobacco-cessation medications; and the Medication Management Center in Arizona that offers telehealth pharmacy services to the employees and their spouses and dependents of that state’s government where patients chose the smoking cessation medication they think is best for them.

The resource also includes a list after each promising practice that tells pharmacists how to overcome some obstacles and begin those practices in their own state.

“At the conclusion of each promising practice profile, the factors that have facilitated and empowered pharmacist-provided tobacco cessation services and the factors that have limited care delivery and sustainability are summarized,” the report said. “These lists provide a quick mechanism to look across the profiles for common facilitating and limiting factors that may be useful when evaluating system changes needed for expanding pharmacist-provided tobacco cessation services.”

Liz Carey

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