URI pharmacy students enter national contest to promote medication adherence

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KINGSTON, R.I. — October 12, 2011 – The University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy is taking part in a national competition titled Script Your Future Medication Adherence Advocacy Challenge for the month of October. Students will be competing to find the best methods for advocating medication adherence to the public, especially those with chronic diseases.

Last July, URI became the first university to declare interest in the national adherence campaign. The fact that URI has the only pharmacy program in Rhode Island has given these students an advantage by eliminating in-state competition. Also, the small size of the state will make it easier to reach out to everyone and ensure that a difference is made.

“The Rhode Island Pharmacy Association is geared toward helping us; all of our resources are pooled together rather than being divided between separate colleges [of pharmacy],” said Marian Gaviola, a URI College of Pharmacy student.

These students are trying a variety of creative methods to get the message about medication adherence across to the public. Examples include health fairs, senior center visits, walks for the cause, wallet cards where patients can list their medications, and online video presentations.

“We want to do a cartoon video geared toward children with asthma to let them know how to deal with their symptoms and stay healthy,” said Gaviola.

Kelly Orr, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice, has been spearheading the Script Your Future campaign for URI. Orr serves as the faculty advisor to the Student Leadership Council for the pharmacy program, which helped organize the campaign through new ideas and perspectives. She has also participated in national teleconferences with Script Your Future.

“She has done pretty much all of the legwork for setting us up with the campaign,” said Gaviola.

Orr’s wealth of knowledge, willingness to volunteer her time and skills as an asthma educator has made her a major asset to the campaign.

“She helped us communicate with each other so that our program could have the greatest impact,” said Russell Poisson, a URI College of Pharmacy student.

The National Consumers League launched the student competition through the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores this month to help their three-year campaign that focuses on patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. Rhode Island is sixth in the nation for the highest percentage of chronic illnesses.

The organization has found, through literature reviews as well as talking to experts, that medication adherence for people with these chronic conditions is a major problem. This group considers medicine safety a major aspect of their mission, according to Erin Arcand, a consultant that has been working with the campaign since March.

Arcand stated that poor medication adherence could occur when patients start to feel better and then think they no longer need their medication. They fail to realize that, in most cases, this behavior will lead to frequent hospital visits in the near future.

“It’s about understanding your medicine as well as your own illness. Every case is different,” said Arcand.

Adhering to medication means taking prescriptions in a manner that is directed by a health care professional. Poor medication adherence is a national problem that costs Americans $290 billion a year. In terms of human health and fiscal value- this issue is 100 percent preventable. Statistics show that one out of three people never fill their prescriptions. More than one third of medication-related hospital admissions are linked to poor adherence.

“People who don’t take their medication correctly and then end up in the hospital for it are distracting health care professionals from taking care of those involved in accidents that could not have been prevented, like someone who breaks their collar while skateboarding,” said Poisson, who happened to have experienced this first hand.

Learning about this campaign has helped Poisson realize how much public health needs guidance and how he could help. Poisson is also a member of Kappa Psi, a pharmaceutical fraternity at URI, which has allowed him to travel to other campuses involved in the campaign.

“They want to win just as much as we do,” said Poisson.

Although competition gives the campaign an edge, the main purpose is to help patients and caregivers avoid medication errors and to aid pharmacists in learning better communication skills.

“Each pharmacist has their own way of getting the message of medication adherence to their patients, what Script Your Future is trying to do is bring all of these different methods together. Patients need to understand there’s a team behind their care,” said Arcand.

Before the campaign began, a baseline survey was conducted to see where the six target cities- Providence, R.I., Baltimore, Md., Birmingham, Ala., Cincinnati, Ohio, Raleigh, N.C. and Sacramento, Calif.- stood in terms of medication adherence. This survey will be replicated and conducted again at the end of the Script Your Future campaign to see which city’s medication adherence improved the most.