Pharmacy-Driven Service Set to Transform Asthma Landscape

asthma treatment

Pharmacists are leading an innovative new push to relieve Australians from the heavy burden of uncontrolled asthma.

Under the Sixth Community Pharmacy Agreement, the Australian Government is providing $50 million over five years for the Pharmacy Trial Program (PTP) to trial new approaches for pharmacy services. This program is funding several trials to improve patient outcomes and seeks to expand the role of pharmacists in delivering a wider range of primary health care services through community pharmacy.

The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney is heading up one of these trials involving a pharmacist-delivered asthma service, in which pharmacists can assess and, if necessary, refer asthma patients with complex issues to a GP.

Researchers are looking to recruit 80 pharmacists and 20 GPs from across New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania to take part in the trial. Health professionals involved will be remunerated for time spent on the service.

“We have a very exciting opportunity for pharmacists across three states to get involved in a totally new concept in asthma management for Australia,” says Professor Carol Armour, executive director of the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. “If it works as hoped it will relieve the substantial burden that many patients and their families experience as a result of sub-optimally controlled asthma.”

Asthma affects approximately 10 per cent of the Australian population and when assessed, half of these people have poorly controlled asthma.

Called the Pharmacy Trial Program – Asthma and Rhinitis Control, or The PTP – ARC, the project addresses the need to improve clinical outcomes for the Australian population at risk of uncontrolled asthma. It does this by extending the role of pharmacists in the delivery of primary health care services through community pharmacies.

The service is based on pharmacists:

  • Identifying patients with poorly controlled asthma using the Asthma Control Questionnaire (ACQ);
  • Assessing possible causes of poor control; and
  • Referring patients with unknown causes/complex issues to their GP.

“The proposed intervention involves an evidence-based pharmacist-delivered service for patients with uncontrolled asthma, which can easily be integrated into pharmacists’ workflow,” the specialist explains.

This intervention targets three key factors associated with uncontrolled asthma. These are: Poor adherence - characterised by underuse of preventer medication and/or overuse of reliever medication, suboptimal inhaler technique, and/or uncontrolled allergic rhinitis.

The randomized controlled trial starts in July and will recruit 840 Australians with poorly controlled asthma.

Pharmacies will be asked to submit an expression of interest in the project once the software and training plan is complete.

“Should the service prove to be cost-effective and acceptable to patients, we could see pharmacists delivering the service more widely,” Professor Armour says. “This is your chance to be involved in an exciting new direction for asthma management in Australia.”

The project is a collaboration between the Woolcock, University of Sydney, Curtin University, University of Tasmania, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, National Asthma Council Australia and The George Institute for Global Health.

The call for pharmacists to submit an expression of interest has started in NSW and WA (2 July). The call in Tas will occur shortly afterwards. Please watch the Pharmacy Guild and PSA websites.