Give heart patients some extra support


American Heart Month can highlight your care year round

In brief:

  • Heart disease remains the leading killer in the US1
  • And, about half of adults have one of the top cardiac risk factors
  • Use American Heart Month to call attention to ways your pharmacy helps patients with heart health
  • From improving adherence to promoting healthy lifestyles, your pharmacy makes a difference

The need for action

Heart disease remains a tremendous problem in the United States. In the time it takes to read this article, several Americans will die from heart disease, as 1 person dies every 37 seconds.2

Nearly half of Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking

Many people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are not aware they are at risk, since these risk factors are silent. They may also not realize they are at risk since new guidelines (published in 2017) changed the definition of high blood pressure to 130/80.3

Source: American Heart Association3

During American Heart Month call attention to the problem & solutions

Heart health will be top of mind in February, because it is American Heart Month. Seize the opportunity to show your community the many ways that your pharmacy supports patients.

Highlight heart health in your marketing. Let local journalists know that you can provide expertise. (See “Become Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert.”)

Multiple ways to serve these patients

Offer comprehensive care and let your community know what you do.

  • Start with screenings. Blood pressure and cholesterol are key. Pharmacy students can help you fit this service into your pharmacy’s workflow every day, not just during health events.
  • Improve adherence. One study found that only 6% of patients with cardiovascular disease take statins as prescribed.4 In fact, one quarter of patients didn’t even get the first prescription filled and another 25% missed the second fill.
    Reach out to prescribers to explain how you will counsel patients and offer services such as medication synchronization and compliance packaging to keep them on track.
  • Don’t forget the front end. Side effects from statins and other meds can be substantial. Talk with patients to understand their situation and offer solutions. For example, some patients experiencing muscle cramps may benefit from a coenzyme Q10 supplement. Also, warnings for patients with heart disease and hypertension appear on OTC products for conditions including:5
    • Pain
    • Nasal congestion
    • Asthma
    • Hemorrhoids
    • Allergic conjunctivitis

    Remind patients about possible side effects and regularly remind them that you are there to help answer questions about medication safety.

  • Provide advice on diet, exercise, smoking and sleep. Work with experts in your community to better serve these patients. For example, you might bring in a registered dietician for healthy eating demonstrations or a fitness expert for exercise programs.
    An example in New York City is that some pharmacies are working with the Health Department to help patients eat more fresh produce. When patients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fill prescriptions for blood pressure medications, they receive $30 in “Health Bucks” they can use at farmers markets.6
    Smoking cessation and better sleep can also have a significant impact on patients’ health. Discuss these topics with patients and suggest products and services that can help.

Target marketing

In your marketing plans, think specifically about patients with heart disease. For example:

  • Search your patient database to identify patients with heart disease to target for specific promotions, such as a discount on a new blood pressure monitor.
  • Reach out at key times, such when guidelines change or during special occasions, like American Heart Month. Another time to reach out: when a nearby pharmacy closes. When a pharmacy closes, the percent of patients with heart disease who fail to refill a statin nearly doubles, with similar results for beta blockers and blood thinners.7 Even the number of fully adherent patients who fail to refill a prescription rises. This is a prime opportunity to attract and assist new patients.

These tips can help to strengthen your patients’ heart health. Fill in any gaps in the care you offer as well as gaps in the community – and ensure your community falls in love with your pharmacy.

1Heart Disease Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dec. 2, 2019.
2Heart Disease Facts,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dec. 2, 2019.
3Understanding Blood Pressure Readings,” American Heart Association, Accessed January 9, 2020.
4Statin Adherence Low for Secondary CVD Prevention,” U.S. Pharmacist, April 24, 2019.
5Nonprescription Products and Heart Warnings,” W. Steven Pray and Gabriel E. Pray, U.S. Pharmacist, Feb. 18, 2011.
6Allowing Pharmacists To “Prescribe’ Produce To Help Lower Blood Pressure,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sept. 24, 2019.
7Heart Patients at Risk When Local Pharmacy Closes,” Robert Preidt, WebMD, April 19, 2019.