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Dec 06, 2011

Can Pharmacist Consultations Improve Heart Failure Outcomes?

Speaking with a pharmacist improves medication adherence in heart failure patients.

A variety of drugs have been developed over the years that are not only safe but extremely effective in treating heart failure — a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. In fact, most doctors treat heart failure patients with a combination of medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta blockers, diuretics, and blood thinners, among others. Together, these drugs help minimize symptoms, improve quality of life and improve outcomes.

However, prescribing effective treatments is only half the battle. The term “medication adherence” refers to taking the prescribed dose of medication at the correct time for the entire period intended. If patients do not adhere to medications, they not only may lose out on significant health improvements but could experience negative effects. And since heart failure patients are often prescribed numerous drugs over a long, sometimes indefinite period of time, doctors continue to identify ways to help make it easier for patients to adhere to their treatments.

Recently, researchers assessed how talking with a pharmacist could improve medication adherence among heart failure patients as part of a study known as HOOPS (Heart Failure Optimal Outcomes From Pharmacy Study). Over 2,100 patients with heart failure enrolled in this study, half of whom received at least one 30-minute consultation with a pharmacist. During consultations, patients were able to learn more about how their medications work and discuss any concerns and/or side effects. After following study participants for two years, researchers found that those receiving the individual pharmacist consultations were more likely to adhere to their medications. However, this did not translate into improved outcomes, such as fewer hospitalizations from heart failure or death.

Despite no apparent improvement in heart failure outcomes after two years, study findings are encouraging. It is possible that researchers will see improvements in outcomes over a longer period of time, such as five or ten years. Also, if pharmacist intervention is effective in improving medication compliance, this approach could be used among many other types of patients with varying conditions.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can patients help improve medication adherence on their own?

  • Patients can help improve adherence by understanding how their medications work, taking their medications at the same time(s) each day, using notes or alarms as reminders to take medications, and allowing family or friends to help support them.
  • What types of medications were patients prescribed during this study?

  • In this study, patients were prescribed various combinations of beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, aldosterone antagonist, diuretics and antithrombotics. 

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