NCPA Executive Update

NCPA Executive Update delivers insights on legislative, regulatory, policy, and industry developments from NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, Pharmacist, MBA, to NCPA members and pharmacy leaders every Friday.

Pharmacists can add their expertise to the mental health conversation | NCPA Executive Update | June 15, 2018

by NCPA | Jun 15, 2018

Dear Colleague,

Doug Hoey

I caught a story on the local news radio (WTOP news radio, the highest rated radio station in the wonky DC Metro area) that medications commonly used to treat conditions like high blood pressure can cause depression in some people. Birth control pills. Beta-blockers. Benzodiazepines.

Other media outlets also picked up on the story with these headlines:

One-third of adults in U.S. taking drugs that may cause depression, study findsUSA Today

Study: Adults Use Medications That Can Lead to Depression and SuicideU.S. News and World Report

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that can cause depression: Study – Good Morning America (ABC News)

You may be taking meds that have the potential to cause depression, study says – The "Today" show

"Who knew that medications like these could cause depression?" the radio reporter asked.

"PHARMACISTS know this kind of information. This is not news to us!" I shouted at the radio. No mention of pharmacists in the report, though. In the "Today" show story, a doctor did the report and suggested that patients talk with their doctor. Not bad advice but what about advising patients to talk with their pharmacist? Here's a study about medication side effects (conducted by a college of pharmacy) that's news to most people except the medication experts, the pharmacist, and we're not even mentioned? We should be recognized for our value here. We can help here. We can make a difference.

Going beyond the headlines, the story is about a study released by the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Pharmacy with new findings linking polypharmacy with some of these commonly used medications as potentially producing an additive risk of a higher incidence of depression. Be sure and read the study or a summary.

The release of that study is timely because of last week's suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain which put the subject of suicide and mental health back in the national conversation. Mental health comes up often with each new instance of a mass shooting. With the reporting of the two celebrity suicides occurring so close together, one of the frequently cited facts was that suicide rates have increased nearly 30 percent since 1999 according to the CDC. The age group with the biggest rate increase were those in the 45-64 age range, a common age group for patients walking into community pharmacies.

When it comes to medications that have the potential to cause depression, there is a tremendous resource in every community – the community pharmacist. Community pharmacists also have an excellent line of sight into identifying patients that may need help.

Recently I learned about Mental Health First Aid programs. Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour certificate program where your pharmacy team members will learn techniques for helping those who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis. Many employers, such as those for first responders, health care facilities, and care managers, are requiring Mental Health First Aid training for their team members.

If you think about it, there is a higher likelihood of pharmacy staff needing to respond to a mental health related episode than a situation requiring basic life support or CPR.

This is going to be a big deal for community pharmacy because of the growing awareness of mental health issues. That awareness is driven both by societal concerns as well as economic concerns of the costs related to improper or untreated mental illness. Some health plan sponsors (employers, governments, and individuals buying health care coverage) are starting to consider community pharmacists as a resource to help. That's one reason why NCPA is offering Mental Health First Aid training to community pharmacists at NCPA's Annual Convention this October in Boston. The Mental Health First Aid training will be held Friday, Oct. 5, and part of the training will be conducted by pharmacy owner Clark Bishop. Watch this compelling two-minute video about why Clark decided to get certified as a Mental Health First Aid trainer.

Let me also make a suggestion here: The best person on your staff to get trained on Mental Health First Aid may not be you. It may be a staff pharmacist or a technician or someone else on your staff. But, having someone on your staff with this training could open up conversations in your community that could lead to opportunities.

Yes, some medications can contribute to an increased risk of depression. Pharmacists already know that. With Mental Health First Aid training, community pharmacies add a new dimension of value to their community. To register for this program, click here. The course is $100 per member or $150 for a non-member.

Doug Hoey