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IU study: Pharmacists could help in lowering risk of diabetic retinopathy

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Pharmacists could play a key role in protecting patients with diabetes from a serious degenerative eye disease.

A study conducted by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers found proof-of-concept that pharmacists’ help in management of diabetes can reduce a patient’s risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetes affects an estimated 30.3 million people—the equivalent of 9.4 percent of the United States population—and diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications. Approximately 4 million people in the United States are living with the disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Primary-care physicians typically treat diabetes; but researchers at IU, led by Ashay Bhatwadekar, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology at IU School of Medicine and professor of pharmacology and toxicology and Zachary Weber PharmD, BCPS, BCACP, CDE at Purdue College Pharmacy, considered the difficulties these doctors face, and now said they believe pharmacists can fill in any gaps.

Their findings were published recently in Pharmacy Practice.

According to researchers, long periods between patient visits and limited meeting time with patients during those visits can hinder the educational, clinical, medication-related and psychological care of these patients with diabetes need.

But a pharmacist’s involvement in medication management, patient education and drug utilization review has proven helpful in treating other ailments.

The same can be said for retinopathy. Bhatwadekar said he believes the review done by IU—looking into the benefit of pharmacist-managed care in retinopathy progression—is the first of its kind. Researchers performed a retrospective data analysis of patients with diabetes seen at the pharmacist-managed cardiovascular risk reduction services to assess the potential benefit of pharmacist intervention on retinopathy outcome, Bhatwadekar said.

Patient records were collected from 317 individuals seen by the pharmacist and physician and 320 individuals seen only by the physician.

Results of the review showed retinopathy progression remained stable in 89.6 percent of individuals seen by the pharmacist as opposed 87.9 percent of individuals in physician only group, Bhatwadekar explained. Overall, 1.2 percent fewer individuals progressed to a severe form of diabetic retinopathy when seen by the pharmacist.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...