Patients still unaware of pain options

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Many Australians who suffer from chronic pain remain unaware of what pharmacists can do to help, study reveals

Many of the growing number of Australians who suffer from chronic pain remain “somewhat unaware” of what community pharmacists can offer to help them, beyond dispensing and counselling of prescription medicines.

Researchers from the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University, Victoria, had 120 patients who experience chronic pain complete detailed questionnaires.

They found that around 30% of the cohort did not believe that visiting a community pharmacy is helpful in pain management.

However, many said that their pain management knowledge could be improved, while more than 60% disagreed when asked whether they would rather visit a supermarket than their pharmacy to purchase analgesics.

More than half of the patients believed that community pharmacies “can and should offer more pain management services”.

“Despite the limited pharmacological options available in Australian community pharmacies, more than half the number of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed when asked whether they would rather visit a supermarket than a pharmacy to purchase analgesics,” the researchers said.

“It appears that many still value the importance of interacting with their pharmacists in the context of pain management and, as such, community pharmacists have a vast opportunity to expand on their recognition and engagement with patients and offer more than dispensing and supply of prescription medicines”.

The authors said their findings supported the results from the national pain survey where “participants suggested the need for community pharmacies to advertise their pain management services, given that participants reported being unaware of what else pharmacists can offer in this space.”

They did identify a lack of non-prescription analgesics as ‘a dilemma that Australian pharmacists and patients are faced with”. is the limited variability of analgesics available in community pharmacies. 

“There have been numerous pain intervention programmes developed…. One example of this is the ‘PainWISE’ programme, an initiative in which community pharmacists undertake extensive additional training in both acute and chronic pain management and are perfectly placed to interact with patients and identify any issues that may warrant referral. Another example of this is the ‘Chronic Pain MedsCheck Trial’ service…” the authors said.

“Most participants listed numerous analgesic medicines they regularly use as part of their pain management approach. In circumstances where interactions have been identified, pharmacists then have an opportunity to bring this to the attention of their patients and thereby provide education on the quality and safe use of medicines,” they said.

“An excellent example of this was identified in an Australian study, where results showed that Australian community pharmacists were ideally placed to identify interactions between OTC analgesics and concomitant use of the anticoagulant warfarin, and all pharmacists involved recommended alternative OTC analgesics with less likelihood of causing adverse effects.

In the context of pain management, pharmacists also have an opportunity to encourage the trial of alternative pain management strategies that are consistent with the recommendations outlined in clinical therapeutic guidelines”.

They concluded that the findings suggest that “enhancing the involvement of community pharmacists can help bridge gaps in pain management knowledge, which may provide greater positive outcomes for patients experiencing pain symptoms”.

The research was published in the journal Pharmacy.

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