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Health Workers Say Drug Monitoring Program Working

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – A monitoring program by pharmacists intended to ensure patients with depression or bipolar disorder take the proper medication shows signs that it’s working, health officials in Billings said.

The Collaborative Management of Mental Illness in Rural Primary Care program proposed in the federal health care reform law is already in place in some Montana pharmacies.

“We’re another set of eyes and ears trying to help patients get the most out of their medication,” said Carla Cobb, a Billings pharmacist who helped spearhead the program.

Pharmacist can also encourage patients.

“A lot of these people don’t have family support, so having support from their provider and pharmacist is key,” said Sheila Jorgenson, a pharmacist at Pamida in Roundup. “Somebody cares. If nobody cares about them, they have a tendency to fall off the radar.”

Jorgenson said she asks clients to track their symptoms using questionnaires she gives them. She said that information helps determine whether a person is getting better.

Cobb said people with depression or bipolar disorder often start feeling better after beginning medication, but then plateau. By making adjustments, patients can continue improvement, she said.

“You can see your pharmacist once a month every time you come in for a refill rather than once or twice a year for a physician,” said Miranda Dickson, a pharmacist at Osco Drug.

Pharmacists say they can also persuade patients to stay with medication long enough for it to work.

“It’s one more checkup to help keep people on their medication or to get on the right one,” said Dr. Brenda Kirkland, who refers patients to Dickson from her practice at West Grand Family Medicine. “Some people quit taking it and never come back until they’re having a crisis.”

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