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UCSF-Safeway pharmacy alliance aims to help customers quit smoking

The UCSF School of Pharmacy has partnered with Safeway Inc. to help Safeway customers quit smoking, by connecting them with specially trained pharmacists to learn about smoking-cessation programs and other resources.

Under the partnership, Safeway's pharmacists will be trained in proven smoking-cessation counseling techniques using a program developed by the UCSF pharmacy faculty. The stores also will locate non-prescription, nicotine-replacement therapies near store pharmacy areas, giving customers convenient access to a pharmacist to answer questions.

The partnership is designed to give Safeway customers access, in a community setting, to the patient-care expertise of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. The school, which has the nation's top-ranked pharmacy degree program, pioneered the field of clinical pharmacy in the 1960s to provide direct interactions between hospital patients and pharmacists.

"Pharmacists are often the most accessible health care provider for patients within their own communities, but we haven't maximized their expertise in that setting," said B. Joseph Guglielmo, Jr., PharmD, interim dean of the UCSF School of Pharmacy. "This project offers Safeway customers the full patient-care skill set of pharmacists with a goal of helping customers prevent and manage their chronic medical conditions."

The project initially will focus on 20 pharmacy stores in Northern and Southern California and will expand throughout 2013 to include hundreds of Safeway Pharmacies across the country.

"We are proud to partner with the UCSF School of Pharmacy on this effort to help our customers quit smoking and live healthier lives," said Darren Singer, Safeway senior vice president, Pharmacy, Health & Wellness. "Our pharmacists are, at all times, ready to help customers reach their health and wellness goals."

This will be the first time a smoking cessation intervention has been applied systematically across a network of pharmacies, Singer said. Safeway sees this important new service as complementary to the ever-evolving range of patient-centered care offerings that Safeway pharmacies provide.

Cigarette smoking is the primary known cause of preventable death in the United States, resulting in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths and $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those who stop smoking, however, significantly reduce their risk of tobacco-related disease.

The CDC estimates that 19.3 percent of U.S. adults smoked in 2010; of those, 78 percent smoked daily and nearly 69 percent wanted to quit. While more than half reported having tried to quit recently, less than a third had used scientifically proven approaches and only 6 percent were successful for six months or more.

The U.S. Public Health Service guidelines cite the most effective approaches for smoking cessation as behavioral counseling and medications, used either alone or, preferably, in combination.

The program developed for Safeway uses a streamlined version of Rx for Change, a tobacco-cessation training program that UCSF pharmacy faculty created to train health care providers nationwide. This project fundamentally redesigns how pharmacists work with patients, from simply offering smoking-cessation medications behind a counter to active clinical involvement.

The program uses an "Ask, Advise, Refer" model, in which pharmacists ask patients whether they smoke as one of the standard health screening questions when filling prescriptions. Smokers are then advised to quit, offered information on medication options available and referred to the California Smokers' Helpline, a free telephone counseling system at UC San Diego (1-800-NO-BUTTS).

"We know there are several medications that have significant interactions with tobacco smoke, so this is a question every pharmacist should be asking already," said Lisa Kroon, PharmD, interim chair of the UCSF Department of Clinical Pharmacy, who developed the curriculum with fellow professors Robin Corelli, PharmD, and Karen Hudmon, DrPH.

The project will include a three-month study by UCSF researchers, starting in early 2013, to assess the impact of having pharmacists who are specially trained in smoking cessation, and of using a systematic approach to help patients quit smoking.


Contact: Kristen Bole
University of California - San Francisco

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