UBC Pharmacists Clinic helps headache sufferers find relief before their first specialist appointment

A new partnership with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is helping patients before they even step foot inside the clinic.

UBC Pharmacists Clinic helps headache sufferers find relief before their first s
Photo from UBC website.

For patients dealing with chronic, debilitating headaches, the wait to be seen by the UBC Headache Clinic can seem like an eternity. But a new partnership with the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is helping patients before they even step foot inside the clinic, according to a UBC press release.

Now, patients can jump-start their treatment with an initial consultation at the UBC Pharmacists Clinic. Opened in November 2013, it is Canada’s first university-affiliated, licensed, pharmacist-led patient care clinic, and it’s making a huge difference to the lives of headache sufferers.

Dr. Sian Spacey of the new clinic explains how it works.

“Before my patients see me, they have an hour-long appointment with a pharmacist,” explains Spacey. “They review their symptoms and all of their medications, discuss how they can more effectively take them, and they also talk to them about lifestyle issues. They summarize all that information, so that I have a complete list of medications that the patient has ever been on and is currently on.”

The partnership began as a pilot project in June. After reviewing its effectiveness, it, became the new standard of care for Headache Clinic patients. To date, 25 of the clinic’s patients have come through the Pharmacists Clinic.

Spacey says in a number of cases, patients began seeing an improvement in their symptoms before their initial doctor’s appointment.

“One of the wonderful things I’ve seen is that by the time they have an appointment with me, some patients have had their headaches reduce dramatically, just by being counselled by the pharmacist about how to take their medication properly,” she says, noting that while migraine is more common than diabetes and asthma combined, it’s also a very treatable condition.

Pharmacist Jason Min calls the partnership with the Headache Clinic a natural collaboration.

“Headache management can be very medication-heavy,” he says. “There are medications that can cause headaches and medications that can help prevent and treat headaches. It can get very complicated, especially when there are medications that patients can self-select off of any pharmacy counter or shelf.”

Headaches related to overuse of over-the-counter drugs are a common issue, says Min. “The other area where we have made contributions is all the non-drug measures. We talk to patients about caffeine intake, sleep regulation. We also talk a lot about natural supplements that have efficacy that are recommended in the Canadian headache guidelines.”

Not only does the pharmacist consultation help patients tackle some of the root causes of their headaches, it also enhances what can be accomplished when they first meet with Spacey.

“We can focus on other things, instead of spending all the time collecting information about medications,” says Spacey. “By introducing a combination of lifestyle changes and supplements and medication, we can really dramatically change people’s quality of life. That initial consultation with the pharmacist really makes the appointment with me a lot more effective.”


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