StrokeCheck refutes ‘more harm than good’ claims

StrokeCheck is helping to raise stroke awareness while utilising pharmacy’s unique qualities, says spokesperson following condemnation by vascular surgeons

The Australian Medical Association and Stroke Foundation have warned Australians not to take up the StrokeCheck service via Amcal pharmacies and workplaces, as reported in Fairfax media.

The surgeons said that the service could do more harm than good if participating consumers did not have symptoms of carotid artery stenosis, and was likely to throw up “false positives” and frighten the public.

The PSA responded, saying that screening and risk assessment activities in community pharmacy must be evidence-based, meet unmet needs in the community, be appropriate for a pharmacy setting and provided by an appropriately-trained pharmacist.

But a spokesperson for StrokeCheck told the AJP today that it was not a screening service, and that it was not receiving feedback that it had unnecessarily frightened consumers.

“Strokecheck is not engaging in a screening process,” the spokesperson says.

“Patients with clinical concerns present themselves through the Strokecheck channel to seek medical advice like approaching any regular general practitioner to request for consultation.

“Strokecheck relies on its general practitioners to guide participants in a conversation concerning risk factors leading to cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is in the discretion of general practitioners to direct participants for further testing where the need arises in the individual’s circumstances.

“As qualified medical professionals, any referral for further testing would be based on the clinical indicators provided by the patient.”

The spokesperson refuted claims that the service was doing more harm than good.

“Strokecheck provides a conversation with a general practitioner on the risk factors contributing to the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

“This health conversation allows the general practitioner to discuss with the participant lifestyle changes and methods to manage the participant’s risk of atherosclerosis.

“Strokecheck provides this conversation free of charge. It is in the general practitioner’s discretion to refer a patient to other medical specialists where necessary, including obtaining ultrasound reporting to assist the general practitioner with his or her assessment of the patient.

“Ultrasound of the carotid arteries is a way to see if a patient’s carotid arteries contain plaque and warrant early medical intervention. The carotid artery is a common site for atherosclerosis.

“Ultrasound testing of the carotid artery is non-invasive, safe and painless. Strokecheck’s general practitioners make requests for such testing only where the patient in the opinion of the professional is displaying high risk of emerging cardiovascular disease.

 “Where general practitioners make a referral for ultrasound testing to enhance the health conversation with the participant, the patient is provided with sound medical advice tailored to their individual circumstances and needs.

“Like all testing, there is the risk of a false positive result. The Harvard Medical School indicates that fewer than 10% of carotid artery ultrasounds result in false positives.”

The spokesperson says the service has received positive reception in the community and encouraging feedback from participants.

The spokesperson also says that pharmacies are a good location for raising awareness of conditions such as stroke, and their risk factors, and said the not-for-profit is grateful to Amcal for its support.

“Pharmacies are a major hub for members of the community to reflect on their health.

“As a one stop shop, pharmacies offer accessibility and availability to health advice and its position to empower the public with health education is unrivalled.

“As cardiovascular disease poses great health risk to Australians, the role of pharmacy raising awareness of the prevention of disease is foreseeable.”

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