Do you manage insomnia?

Pharmacists located in general practice can help manage insomnia, say pharmacy and sleep researchers

In a small study run by researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research and NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in NSW, most GP participants agreed practice pharmacists could play a significant role in insomnia management.

According to twenty-three interviews conducted with GPs, this role would involve the pharmacists educating patients using their counselling skills, especially relating to sedative use.

“Primary health care including community pharmacy and general practice centre[s] are the most likely venue for insomnia presentations,” write the researchers in this month’s issue of International Journal of Pharmacy and Practice.

“Insomnia is a common complaint in Australian general practice. However, treatment and screening did not appear to be a top priority for GPs in the sample.

“Given that a majority of insomnia cases are treated with sedatives as shown in general practice data, it may be timely to develop, implement and evaluate models for collaborative care with sedative use oversight by pharmacists in general practices,” they say.

There are currently 26 pharmacists working within general practices in Australia, according to the PSA.

Research conducted by the University of Sydney and published on the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s website also came to the same conclusion that community pharmacists can screen and manage patients.

The researchers trained pharmacists from 20 pharmacies to use a screening tool and conduct a sleep health awareness campaign while recruiting patients over a four-month period.

Patients deemed at risk for a sleep disorder were counselled and if necessary referred to a GP.

“Pharmacists are in the position to observe medication use and can flag those at a higher risk of having or developing a sleep disorder [such as insomnia].

“Since pharmacists are privy to their patients’ medical and medication histories, they can easily reasonably assist in identifying at-risk patients,” they say.

However, community pharmacists as a whole are saying they are expected to do too much within the same time and pay constraints.

“In 2016, pharmacists are working harder than ever and getting paid lower than all other generations. Please stop giving us more things to do. $26/hr doesn’t justify the level of expertise you expect from us,” says one AJP reader.

“Why have pharmacists had to accept more workload for LESS income? Even owners. Because the Government has said so. And it’s only going to get worse. Over the next 12-24 months pharmacist workloads are really going to blow out as more is expected of them; for effectively less pay,” says another.

Insomnia management could be just another responsibility to add to the growing list.

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