News you can use, November 2013

Medical marijuana, Web-based blood pressure monitoring

Study evaluates Web-based blood pressure monitoring

With 73 million Americans suffering from hypertension and the disease costing the U.S. health care system $73 billion a year, health plans are seeking new, cost-effective ways to help patients control high blood pressure. In search of new ideas, researchers from the Group Health Cooperative, which serves patients in Washington State and Idaho, examined how well a Web-based monitoring system would help patients with high blood pressure get it under control.

 The study team, led by Paul A. Fishman, PhD, followed three groups of patients in a randomized trial:

A group receiving usual care for hypertension, including regular physicians’ appointments and information about lifestyle changes and medication, and information about a website where they could get information and monitor lab results.

A group given a home blood pressue monitor and instructions on its use, in addition to the elements of usual care.

A home blood pressure monitor pharmacist care group, which received the monitor as well as direct supervision from a pharmacist trained to treat hypertension. Patients received a secure e-mail message and a phone call, and the pharmacist detailed the patients’ action plan and medications and helped patients select a lifestyle goal.

The trial followed 778 patients for 1 year. After that period, those working online with the pharmacist had improved their blood pressure 56%, compared with 31% for the usual care group and 36% for those with the home blood pressure monitoring only.

The authors found that providing a secure website and giving patients tools to “collaboratively manage their care with clinical pharmacists is both a clinically effective and cost-effective way to improve blood pressure control.”

Giving patients the tools to identify and manage their own medical needs with support, while using health information technology, shows the potential for increasing access to care without substantially increasing costs, the authors noted.

The full study, Improving BP Control Through Electronic Communications: An Economic Evaluation, is published in the .

See this issue’s One to One column on page 26 for tips on counseling patients about blood pressure monitoring and medication adherence.

NASP task force will address medical marijuana

In the hopes of establishing national standards for pharmacists, the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) launched a task force to investigate the pharmacological management of medical marijuana, a growing issue as the number of patients with chronic diseases continues to rise. 

In 22 states, marijuana is either legal or decriminalized, and in August, the U.S. Department of Justice indicated it would not challenge state marijuana laws. Currently, there are no national standards of practice for the pharmaceutical management of medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana has come to the forefront of patient care in many of the diseases that specialty pharmacists treat, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV, and others,” said NASP CEO Gary M. Cohen, BSPharm. “More education for physicians, pharmacists, and patients is needed to ensure individuals receive the correct product with the correct efficacy and drug delivery system to fit their disease. As an organization, NASP believes that it has the responsibility, intellectual advisors, and obligation to take the lead on this emerging area of medical care.”

NASP’s Professional Practice Committee will oversee a group of volunteers to discuss the issue and provide a framework for future educational content, practice parameters, or other standards of care, that serve the goal of improving patient care and equipping pharmacists with the knowledge they need.

The task force will determine key areas of integration with current specialty prescription therapy for patients with chronic diseases.

“Essentially patients receive treatment from dispensaries, outside of their pharmaceutical regiment management, and we believe that a drug with such a broad scope should be managed effectively through the specialty pharmacist to ensure patient education and proper dispensing,” Cohen said.

For more information on the project, visit .