Recent studies have shown that pharmacists have a role in addressing antidepressant nonadherence. However, few studies have explored community pharmacists’ actual counseling practices in response to antidepressant adherence-related issues at various phases of treatment. The purpose of this study was to evaluate counseling practices of community pharmacists in response to antidepressant adherence-related issues.
A simulated patient method was used to evaluate pharmacist counseling practices in Sydney, Australia. Twenty community pharmacists received three simulated patient visits concerning antidepressant adherence-related scenarios at different phases of treatment: 1) patient receiving a first-time antidepressant prescription and hesitant to begin treatment; 2) patient perceiving lack of treatment efficacy for antidepressant after starting treatment for 2 weeks; and 3) patient wanting to discontinue antidepressant treatment after 3 months due to perceived symptom improvement. The interactions were recorded and analyzed to evaluate the content of consultations in terms of information gathering, information provision including key educational messages, and treatment recommendations.
There was variability among community pharmacists in terms of the extent and content of information gathered and provided. In scenario 1, while some key educational messages such as possible side effects and expected benefits from antidepressants were mentioned frequently, others such as the recommended length of treatment and adherence-related messages were rarely addressed. In all scenarios, about two thirds of pharmacists explored patients’ concerns about antidepressant treatment. In scenarios 2 and 3, only half of all pharmacists’ consultations involved questions to assess the patient’s medication use. The pharmacists’ main recommendation in response to the patient query was to refer the patient back to the prescribing physician.
The majority of pharmacists provided information about the risks and benefits of antidepressant treatment. However, there remains scope for improvement in community pharmacists’ counseling practice for patients on antidepressant treatment, particularly in providing key educational messages including adherence-related messages, exploring patients’ concerns, and monitoring medication adherence.