Teamwork Pays Off in Knee Arthritis

Osteoarthritis patients who work with a pharmacist may improve joint function and pain

(RxWiki News) When it comes to your health, teamwork can pay off. If you have arthritis, you may have a better chance of improving your joint health if you work with a team of health care professionals.

Osteoarthritis patients may have better results when they work with a team of specialists.

In a recent study, patients who worked with a team that included a pharmacist had better joint function, joint pain, quality of care and quality of life.

"Ask your pharmacist for advice."

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. As people grow older and the obesity problem continues, some research has predicted a 50 percent increase in the rate of osteoarthritis over the next couple decades.

"Many cases of knee osteoarthritis go undiagnosed and patients often do not receive timely care to relieve pain, improve function and prevent disability," said Carlo Marra, PharmD, PhD, of the University of British Columbia and lead author of the current study.

"Pharmacists are the most accessible health care professionals," said Beth Bolt, RPh, who was not involved in the study.

"This accessibility in the retail setting affords an excellent opportunity for pharmacists to provide osteoarthritis education and resources patients can use to make informed decisions about their treatment, including the appropriate use of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. Pharmacists review medical history, drug profile, and allergy history, and screen for drug-drug interactions and possible contraindications," said Bolt.

For their research, Dr. Marra and colleagues studied the effects of including pharmacists in the care of knee arthritis patients.

The researchers asked 14 pharmacies to give patients a special therapy and 18 pharmacies to give normal care. Knee arthritis patients were split into the two treatment groups.

A total of 73 patients received treatment that included osteoarthritis screening questionnaires, education, management of painkiller drugs, physical therapy exercises and communication with a primary doctor. Another 66 patients were given only an educational booklet.

Dr. Marra and colleagues found that patients in the intervention group had much better osteoarthritis care than those who received normal care.

After three months and six months of treatment, patients in the intervention group had less pain and better function than patients receiving normal care.

"Our findings suggest that pharmacists can effectively initiate interventions that address the gaps in osteoarthritis patient care," said Dr. Marra.

As rates of osteoarthritis continue to rise, teamwork in health care may be a new way to prevent and treat knee osteoarthritis, Dr. Marra concluded.

This study was published August 28 in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

Review Date: 
August 28, 2012