National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI Survey Examines Expanded Role of Pharmacists in Mental Health Care

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

Do you talk with your pharmacist?

That is to way, other than about the weather or how Tim Tebow should get more (or less) playing time.

At the cash register in a retail pharmacy, a technician may ask customers whether they need to talk with the pharmacist about their prescriptions. Most people say no, but they may be missing out on an important opportunity.

According to a survey conducted by NAMI in conjunction with the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists Foundation (CPNPF), approximately 75 percent of individuals living with mental illness and their caregivers seldom or never receive safety or effectiveness monitoring assistance from community pharmacists. NAMI and CPNPF want to improve the opportunity for individuals and caregivers to take advantage of the pharmacist’s knowledge and expertise.

Pharmacists are an essential piece of the treatment and recovery process. They received exceptionally high marks in the survey for their professionalism and trust.

More than 90 percent of survey participants are very comfortable going to community pharmacies and 83 percent feel respected by their pharmacist. Many, however, would like to have a stronger relationship with their pharmacist.

The survey report is titled Characterizing the Relationship between Individuals with Mental Conditions and Community Pharmacists.

The greatest obstacle to consultation with pharmacists, cited by 58 percent of respondents is the lack of private space in retail pharmacies to discuss medication issues, such as effectiveness, side effects and drug interactions. The result is that some people don’t see pharmacists as interested in their care.

“The survey suggests areas for action to strengthen to role of community pharmacists as part of treatment teams for mental health problems as well as other medical conditions,” said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. “Pharmacists can serve as a first line of defense in identifying medication issues to be discussed with a person's doctor—before any concern turns into an adverse event.”

In other words, it’s easier—and free—to talk with your pharmacist rather than making an extra appointment with your doctor to raise a medication concern, or worse, not discussing a concern with anyone who has professional expertise.

CPNPF President Charles F. Caley called the survey “groundbreaking” in its identification of “important opportunities to expand the commitment of the pharmacy community to greater numbers of individuals living with mental illness.”

Nationally, over 118,000 pharmacists work in community settings representing 43 percent of the profession overall, playing an important role in mental health care. There are approximately 2,000 “psychiatric pharmacists” in the United States who specialize in mental health medications, but not enough to directly support the number of individuals being treated with mental health medications.