NMA: Nonprescription Medicines Academy

Good News, Bad News Regarding Pharmacist OTC Counseling Service

August 29th, 2012

A service that enabled patients to receive a follow-up phone call within 1 week after receiving self-care/OTC treatment advice from pharmacists and advanced pharmacy students in two community pharmacies in Massachusetts was deemed “very helpful” by most participants (88.9%). The majority of patients (79.4%) also believed that they experienced better symptom improvement because of the service. However, less than half of patients (44.9%) indicated that they were willing to pay for a pharmacist’s advice, and those who would pay were willing to spend only up to $5 for up to 5 minutes of the pharmacist’s time.

Potential study participants were recruited from the front store aisles of the pharmacies from mid-December 2009 to June 2010. For the 207 patients who agreed to counseling, the pharmacist or student gathered demographic data, inquired about the patient’s past medical history and current medications, provided information to facilitate patient/caregiver understanding of the presenting problem, and made a recommendation for self-treatment. Details of the encounter were documented on a predesigned OTC intervention form.

Of the 83 patients who agreed to a follow-up phone call, 54 completed one call and 9 completed two calls. During the follow-up call, patients were asked about their adherence to the self-treatment recommendation, the degree to which their symptoms were resolved, their opinion of the follow-up service, and the likelihood that they would use the service again. Patients who indicated “no relief” or “some relief” of symptoms were offered additional counseling and a second follow-up phone call.

Among the 46 patients who completed one phone call and claimed complete adherence to the self-treatment advice, 38 (82.6%) reported experiencing great symptom relief, 6 (13.0%) reported experiencing some symptoms relief, and 2 (4.3%) reported no relief. Among the seven patients who followed the self-treatment advice only partially, 3 (42.9%) experienced great symptom relief.

As part of the document for each OTC encounter, the pharmacist or student recorded potential medication-related problems that the patient avoided because of the consultation. Potential problems were identified for 71 patients. The most common errors involved patients selecting or already using products for the wrong reasons, choosing an inappropriate product for treatment, and selecting medications that were considered duplicative or excessive therapy.

J Am Pharm Assoc. 2012;52:535-540.