The Arthritis Newsletter

Summer 2013

Pharmacists and Osteoarthritis: Advice You Can Count On


Dr. Carlo Marra is a Research Scientist at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and a Professor in the Faulty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is also the Director of the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation (CORE) located at UBC. The mission of CORE is to improve health-related outcomes to drug therapy through the application of the best in research, education, and practice enhancement strategies.


Dr. Marra recently presented an overview of his work at a Consumer Advisory Board meeting. It was a pleasure to interview Dr. Marra.


Dr. Marra, what is the focus of your research at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada?


I am very interested in studying how pharmacists can provide services to improve health outcomes and reduce the burden of musculoskeletal conditions.


Canadian researchers have determined that community-based pharmacists could provide an added resource in identifying knee osteoarthritis (OA). Many cases of knee OA go undiagnosed and patients often do not receive timely care to relieve pain, improve function and prevent disability


Why did you focus your research on knee OA?


Osteoarthritis is a highly prevalent condition that is often not diagnosed or treated appropriately. In addition, many of the management tools for this condition are accessible to community pharmacists.


Findings suggest that involving pharmacists, physiotherapists, and primary care physicians in caring for OA patients improves the quality of care, along with patient function, pain, and quality of life.


A pharmacist may be the first health professional to become aware of a patient’s knee pain when they are asked for advice about over the counter medications. How do pharmacists help identify people with knee OA?


We developed a brief questionnaire, which pharmacists can use to identify people with likely knee OA. This questionnaire was validated and has an accuracy of more than 90%.


What was the result of your research on pharmacists and early diagnosis and management of knee OA?


We found that pharmacists could:

  1. Accurately identify those with previously undiagnosed knee OA
  2. Refer patients to physiotherapists for appropriate exercise therapy
  3. Perform medication management to help with analgesia

These interventions resulted in an improvement in the quality of OA care,  reduction in pain, improvement in function, improvement in quality of life and a reduction in overall health care costs.


Can all pharmacists provide direct patient care? What is within their scope of practice?


Pharmacists’ scope of practice is changing as provinces introduce legislation that encourages direct patient care activities. Such activities include administering injections, performing medication management and review, and treatment of minor ailments.


What is the best way to approach a pharmacist for advice?


Pharmacists are generally directly approachable for any advice. Pharmacists are trained to provide advice on medication related issues and can also provide guidance on when to consult another health care provider.


Thank you very much, Dr. Marra. We are pleased to share the news about your work with our readers.

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