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Ontario pharmacists pitch smoking cessation expertise
January 16th, 2012
TORONTO – It's National Non-Smoking Week in Canada, and Ontario Pharmacists' Association (OPA) is alerting consumers looking to kick the habit that they can turn to their local pharmacist for help.
With health care reform in Ontario and other provinces, the role of pharmacists has been expanded to include a broader range of health services — including helping patients quit smoking, OPA said.
Eligible patients seeking smoking cessation counseling can now get this service free at many Ontario pharmacies after a decision last fall by the Ontario government and based on the recommendations of the Expanding Professional Pharmacy Services Working Group (EPPS).
"The government's decision recognizes pharmacists' medication management expertise and their accessibility and reinforces the vital role they can play in helping patients manage their health through important steps such as quitting smoking," OPA chairman Darryl Moore said in a statement. "This is something the association has been advocating for over the last several years."
Based on a patient's needs, smoking cessation services can include a readiness assessment, a consultation and follow-up sessions over a one-year period, according to the association. Pharmacists can schedule appointments that fit the needs of their patients and will guide them through the process, which can include developing a personalized quit-smoking plan, recommendations for over-the-counter medications or a referral to a doctor for a prescription medication if required.
In addition, pharmacists can provide practical counseling on issues such as identifying smoking triggers and how to manage cravings, as well as regular check-ins to discuss issues such as adherence, effectiveness and any side effects.
OPA said that since September, more than 1,700 Ontario pharmacists have registered for its smoking-cessation education program, and stop-smoking support is being provided to patients across the province.
Smoking is Canada's leading preventable cause of death, and over 45,000 Canadians die from tobacco-related causes each year, OPA noted. "Smoking cessation is the most powerful and cost-effective intervention pharmacists can provide," Moore commented.
The association also pointed out that many patients aren't aware that smoking impacts the efficacy of medications; for example, tobacco affects how the body absorbs, uses and eliminates certain medications such as insulin, blood thinners or antidepressants. And when patients start or stop smoking, their medications may need to be modified. Pharmacists who provide smoking cessation services can follow up with their patients regularly to determine how they are progressing, provide advice and encouragement, and determine whether any adjustments need to be made.
"Of all health care professionals, pharmacists have the greatest number of touch points with patients and caregivers. We answer questions, conduct MedsCheck appointments and dispense and counsel on prescription and over-the-counter medications," stated Moore. "This gives us countless opportunities to speak with patients about smoking cessation. And as experts in medication management, we are trained to talk to patients about smoking so that we can properly monitor drug therapy and make adjustments as needed."