Pharmacists help smokers kick the habit, improve care for diabetics in the community

Under the Start to S.T.O.P programme, pharmacists will be helping smokers break the habit. They will also run diabetes care programmes.
Under the Start to S.T.O.P programme, pharmacists will be helping smokers break the habit. They will also run diabetes care programmes.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Pharmacists are mostly seen as people who dispense pills over the counter, and are rarely turned to for medical advice. But, that is slowly changing.

Today, they help smokers kick the habit, through the Start to S.T.O.P (Speak To Our Pharmacists) programme across 24 pharmacies, and run several diabetes care programmes where they identify those at high risk of developing the chronic disease. They also give diet and lifestyle advice.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore noted at the opening of its 27th Singapore Pharmacy Congress on Saturday (Sept 23) that community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals to the general public and play a vital role in keeping the Singapore community healthy.

A Medication Therapy Management Training Programme will be launched at the two-day congress that aims to standardise practices of medication management in chronic diseases, and build capacity and capability in the community sector.

Second permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health Ng How Yue, guest-of-honour at the opening, said Singapore is confronted with an ageing population, rising healthcare expenditure and manpower constraints.

"It is therefore critical for us to transform the delivery of pharmaceutical care so that we can keep our healthcare system and costs sustainable in the long term," he said.

Under Start to S.T.O.P, smokers are put under a six-week counselling programme where the pharmacists will help design a personal quit plan for them, and provide tips on how to avoid a relapse among other advice. It has helped close to 10 people since it was launched last month.

The programme, together with other pharmacist-led diabetes care programmes, helps to improve health within the community, reducing the need for patients to go to the hospital or clinic.

A diabetes risk assessment programme by Guardian launched last July helped 600 people in just four months. Other programmes launched recently that help diabetics manage their condition have also helped some 40 patients through Watsons and Guardian pharmacies.

As for the Vancomycin App, it allows personalised dosage of a critical antibiotic used to treat serious infections in patients with chronic kidney disease. The app is developed at the National University of Singapore and used at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

It helps to improve patient care by maximising efficacy by ensuring that appropriate and targeted concentrations of the antibiotic is given, while minimising toxicity. Too much of the drug could worsen a patient's kidney function.

Said Mr Ng: "There are numerous services that have been initiated, transforming community pharmacy practice from being supply-centric to patient-centric."