The funded service will encourage pharmacists to invest in pain management – but there is a need to upskill, says PainWISE’s Joyce McSwan

In late January, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a $20 million trial program to help people suffering chronic pain, to be run through community pharmacies.

As part of the Pain MedsCheck trial, pharmacists will evaluate patients’ medicines, analgesic use and pain management program in a face-to-face consultation, to ensure it supports their clinical need.

The service has been delayed somewhat, with no confirmed start date as yet, however the Pharmacy Guild says this is because they are making sure the trial is “robust” before it begins.

Joyce McSwan, Managing Director of PainWise, spoke to AJP at APP2018 about the exciting opportunity that the trial signals.

“Pain MedsChecks [are] really exciting because for so long we’ve had MedsChecks, we’ve been able to do some really good chronic disease management,” she told AJP.

“Aside from the acute interaction over the counter, Pain MedsChecks allow us to have that conversation for chronic care extension.

“At the moment we’re writing guidelines, we’re putting together a trial, hopefully to get that as right as we can and to practise within the scope of pharmacy practice, what we can contribute in the safety and efficacy of this space.

“It still comes back to our core fundamental role in quality use of medicines. It will come back to that, and it will look different for different patients – with some guidelines of course.”

“It will always start with assessment, so I think part of the guidelines will be very much the assessment of ‘what have we got before us?’ and then tacking on appropriate treatment. Probably a little bit of rationalising of their current treatment [as well]: is it safe? Is it the best we can do?”

Funding from the government to roll out the trial will boost pharmacists’ incentive to get involved, says Ms McSwan.

“We will have that little bit more time because it’s funded, to give the patient knowledge in terms of why you’re going to say this is not appropriate, as opposed to saying, ‘sorry this is not appropriate, go to your doctor’ – because you’ve got more time in a MedsCheck environment to do that.

“I think the funding will allow pharmacists to want to invest in doing it. Ethically we should do it anyway, but realistically time is always a factor and you’re sieving and sorting what’s your best earnings for that day. So the acknowledgement of some fees attached to that will be really useful for sure,” she says.

“But then, just because there is a service that pays doesn’t mean you’ll do it well. So we all need to make sure we’re upskilling in our knowledge, so that the interaction is going to be really value-added because you’re getting value from the government, then that value transfers to the patient as well.

“So when they get out of there, pharmacy has been represented, their pain has been advocated for, and they’ve been listened to, ultimately. I think that’s going to be a wonderful addition to what we can do – and frankly it needs that contribution because we need to support the GPs and other allied health as well.”

See the full video, sponsored by GSK, here