Pharmacists can play a crucial role in helping patients with hypertension improve their health by controlling their blood pressure—which would also result in reduced health plan costs.

This is the conclusion of a study conducted by the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA) and Green Shield Canada.

Launched in late 2011, the study examined the impact of a six-month hypertension management program in which 118 uncontrolled hypertensive patients met regularly with their pharmacists, who provided medication and lifestyle counselling and monitored blood pressure. The randomized controlled trial took place at 38 community pharmacies across Ontario.

This trial quadrupled the number of patients who managed to get their blood pressure under control.

In addition, adherence to medication therapy increased by 15% while overall antihypertensive medication costs dropped by 31%. Improvements in adherence usually result in lower rates of absenteeism at the workplace. A 2012 study on the impact of medication adherence on employee absenteeism and short-term disability, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, showed that adherent hypertensive patients had 5.2 fewer absent days and 3.5 fewer short-term disability days annually than non-adherent patients.

“This study demonstrates that when pharmacists are able to take a leadership role in supporting people living with chronic disease, they can make a difference—by improving the health of patients and delivering significant savings to the healthcare system,” says Dennis Darby, CEO of the OPA.

Steve Bradie, president and CEO at Green Shield Canada, adds: “The bottom line is that this study proves that for a modest investment in health management counselling services, employers can influence better health outcomes, increase drug therapy adherence and, in the end, lower overall plan costs.”

Both organizations hope to open up a dialogue with employers to identify opportunities to implement similar initiatives in their benefit programs.

More than four million Canadians are estimated to have high blood pressure, but less than one-third have their condition under control.

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