Educating patients on proper and continued use of inhalers is crucial to management of COPD and asthma symptoms. Patients can forget how to use inhalers if only using them for emergencies, practice improper technique, or simply stop taking their inhaler altogether, which may lead to an emergency situation requiring a hospitalization or nebulizer treatment. Encouragement from pharmacists can improve medication adherence, and review of patient drug profiles often identifies inappropriate drug use in patients with COPD and asthma issues.
Research conducted by Dutch community pharmacies between May 2011 and May 2012 found that patients who received intervention from a pharmacist saw increased levels of medication adherence, and reduction of overall disease symptoms. Pharmacists who counseled the intervention group of patients successfully decreased the mean number of antibiotic treatments for symptoms related to COPD or asthma in selected patients by 0.54 overall courses. Pharmacists were also able to decrease the occurrence of 19 commonly tracked problems in the asthma or COPD population. Obsolete medication use decreased by 35%, contra-indicated medication fell by 61%, and use of powder inhalers by elderly patients saw an overall reduction of 29%. Pharmacists can have great success counseling patients about specific medical issues, and intervention coupled with patient education can improve treatment, overall health, and decrease the number of COPD or asthmatic episodes that a patient experiences.
Educating patients on proper inhaler use can be accomplished in a variety of ways. This can be done by walking the patient through proper inhalation technique, how to ensure that medication is properly dispensing when inhaled, advising on overuse of inhalers, and how to deal with COPD or asthma related emergency situations. Educating your local community on how to best manage and treat their COPD symptoms can be furthered by offering educational seminars, classes with a local COPD or asthma support group, and printing literature for patients to read while waiting for their scripts to be filled.
Education and pharmacist intervention can help patients improve their symptoms, decrease the number of attacks that they have, and help them to recognize when a severe attack may be about to occur. Pharmacists can also educate patients on common asthma triggers such as allergens, secondhand or firsthand smoking, pets, and dust. Smoking is one of the main irritants of asthma in children, and parents can be advised to limit their child’s contact with smokers to ensure that asthma flare ups do not occur. Allergens and dust are other common irritants, and those suffering from COPD and asthma can invest in air purifiers to cut down on pollutants and maintain air quality and help decrease chances of an attack. Pharmacies and their staff can work together to encourage patients to use their inhalers properly, identify warning signs of an asthma attack, and ensure that patients are taking their medication as directed.