Every patient is a new world to be discovered
Community pharmacists work every day to provide outpatient services and educate and give patients the tools to handle their treatment efficiently and reach their respective goals. Currently, as a staff pharmacist, I oversee the HIV Specialty program at a Walgreens Pharmacy location in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Establishing an organized program that covers all our patient needs has been a very satisfying accomplishment.
At the clinic, I manage multiple patient care standards, including establishing drug regimens, monthly adherence check-ins, individualized immunization services, and therapies synchronization. Assessing all types of interactions and performing comprehensive medication reviews for those patients under the program has developed very strong bonds between patients and myself, enhancing a trust environment. I also coordinate economic assistance programs and other resources to help our patients to absolve medications costs or high co-payments.
Impacting patients with HIV
Every patient is a new world to be discovered. Every time I go into the consultation room it is essential for me to dress up with the coat of empathy, to listen intently, and seek solutions based on every situation. Pill burden is one of the biggest concerns for patients who have been living with HIV for a while. Alongside my interventions, I have been able to create teamwork that includes the patient and the physician in order to choose a better medication regimen improving adherence and side effects profile.
For example, I have worked merging my patients on Prezcobix and Descovy to the single-drug regimen Symtuza, maintaining the same drug components while improving adherence and decreasing the total medication cost. Another example would be patients on Isentress (400mg) who may benefit from Isentress HD, which reduces the frequency of twice a day to 1 time daily. Also, dealing with patients with other co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypercholesterolemia, among others, has represented a challenge and requires attention to provide holistic management beyond antiretroviral therapy.
HIV awareness in our communities
Working day by day with this population has been very rewarding, but also has shown me the need to advocate for these communities. Currently, one-half of those living with HIV in the United States are over the age of 50. As this population grows, their concerns, realities, and successes remain largely invisible. Based on these facts, every event through community outreach opportunities provides awareness among citizenship and helps to educate current and future generations about the importance of prevention and health promotion.
At Walgreens, I have also been able to make multiple collaborations with the two schools of pharmacy in Puerto Rico to create events to promote HIV prevention and fight the HIV stigma. Education about pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis are keys to stop the HIV pandemic. Finally, through continuous HIV awareness, we will be able to stop stigma and provide our patients with the cultural competencies to seek equity—no matter their status.
Eduardo J. Vega Jiménez, PharmD, is a pharmacist at Walgreens and their HIV specialty program coordinator in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He currently serves as a member of the Transitions Editorial Advisory Board, and his passions include a road trip around the island, traveling, exploring, and a great cup of coffee.