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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI marks pharmacy month with new grant

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

October is American Pharmacists Month

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 18, 2010 –Two University of Rhode Island pharmacy professors teamed up with the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association to educate 40 community pharmacists on the pneumococcal vaccine for individuals with health complications, especially smokers and those with asthma.

Among the major pneumococcal diseases are pneumonia, bacteremia (sepsis) and meningitis. The goal is to involve pharmacists in patient education, screening and inoculation to increase the rate of participation among patients in several risk groups.

Jeffrey Bratberg, URI clinical associate professor of pharmacy and president-elect of the Rhode Island association, said the pneumococcal vaccine initiative is another part of pharmacists’ role in improving patient care.

“We are in the midst of American Pharmacists Month, which is designed to highlight the numerous and wide ranging contributions of pharmacists to improving health care,” Bratberg said. “Through our URI programs, we crisscross the state providing services to the elderly and children, and we conduct research to improve patient care. We also serve on emergency response teams and play a vital role in vaccination programs.”

The American Pharmacists’ Association theme for October is “Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist.” URI’s collaboration with the Rhode Island pharmacists group on the pneumococcal vaccine program is just another way to help pharmacists provide the best one-on-one care, Bratberg said.

Kelly Orr, URI clinical associate professor of pharmacy, wrote the $13,000 grant on behalf of the state association. She also worked closely with URI alumni Linda Carver, a pharmacist at Rite Aid, Narragansett, and David Feeney, owner-pharmacist of Oxnard Pharmacy in Warwick.

The grant provided online continuing education for 40 community pharmacists.

In recent years, the vaccine has been given routinely to individuals older than 65 and those with cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver and renal diseases, as well as those with decreased immune function and diabetes. But more recently, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added cigarette smokers and those with asthma to the targeted population. Smokers and those with diabetes, from age 19 to 64, would get a one-time shot.

She added that asthma affects 20.5 million people nationwide, and they are twice as likely as others to get invasive disease.

About 45 million Americans smoke, which puts them at strong risk for pneumococcal disease.

Federal studies also show that influenza predisposes individuals to developing community-acquired pneumonia, and pneumococcal infections were identified as important complications in severe and fatal cases of H1N1 in 2009.

“The training helped pharmacists understand that special emphasis should be placed on vaccinating adults under 65 years old who have high risk conditions for pneumococcal disease,” Orr said. “The goal of the grant was to identify pharmacists to educate and screen patients and administer the vaccine,” she said.

“You can tell by a patient’s medications whether they are suffering from any of the disease states that would call for the vaccine,” Orr said. “So, a pharmacist might be able to chat with patients about the vaccine, or they could even put auxiliary labels on their prescription bottles to alert them to the vaccines.”

Pharmacists certified by the state to immunize patients are authorized to administer the pneumococcal vaccine. Vaccinations can be administered on an appointment basis or in conjunction with a flu clinic.