First few Article Sentences
Nearly 40% of the 3.99 billion prescriptions dispensed in the United States during 2010 were prescribed for the treatment of chronic disease states such as dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, and COPD/asthma. These chronic conditions often require complex and expensive medication regimens, and failure of patients to understand and adhere to prescribed therapies can lead to unnecessary disease progression, diminished quality of life, and even death. Studies have estimated that one third to one half of all patients in the United States do not take their medications as prescribed by their physicians, with adherence rates being particularly low in patients with chronic diseases. Unfortunately, such non-compliance leads not only to sub-optimal outcomes for patients, but results in over 100 billion dollars in excess hospitalizations each year.
The consequences associated with poor medication adherence and drug-related adverse events have clearly defined the necessity of a medication expert on the primary-care team. This need has been met by a new type of pharmacist: the ambulatory care specialist. Ambulatory care pharmacists are specialized healthcare providers who serve as the medication experts for interdisciplinary primary-care teams. These pharmacists are often based in outpatient clinics and typically focus on specialized practice areas ranging from anticoagulation, hyperlipidemia, and heart failure, to diabetes and asthma. As clinical experts working as part of an interdisciplinary team, ambulatory care pharmacists are actively involved with all aspects of medication use, including appropriate medication selection, interaction screening, cost minimization, simplification of complex drug regimens, and therapeutic drug monitoring. Additionally, in select settings, pharmacists are able to enter into collaborative practice agreements with physicians, allowing them to initiate or modify drug therapy for specific patients as defined by protocols and guidelines. This collaborative effort results in increased medication compliance, safer and more appropriate medication use, less financial waste, and most importantly, healthier patients.