New study shows that pharmacist interventions can help keep diabetics on track


For over 2.7 million Canadians living with diabetes, managing their condition will make all the difference for their quality of life.  Otherwise, they risk serious health complications.  Fortunately, new research shows how pharmacists can play an important role in helping people better manage their condition.

Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form, affects the way the body turns food into energy.  The body’s cells do not absorb glucose (sugar) to convert it into energy and that can lead to excessive glucose in the blood.  To avoid serious complications, it is essential to keep blood glucose levels within a healthy range.  Factors like a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication can all help.

According to new research published recently in the Sustainable Solutions Report: Pharmacist Interventions in Diabetes, even just a 30-minute pharmacist intervention can make a significant impact in diabetes management.  These consultations were offered through the Diabetes Support Program from Shoppers Drug Mart and Great-West Life, one of Canada’s leading insurers.

Participants were given a 5-minute finger prick blood test, called an A1C test, to determine their blood glucose levels over the previous three months.  Using those results, pharmacists would then advise if the individual’s diabetes was under control or offer lifestyle counselling, medication recommendations, or even physician referrals where necessary.

For those who returned for a follow up blood test and consultation, the results showed significant improvements.  The number of patients who reached their blood glucose target tripled after the first intervention with a Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist.   There was also a fourfold increase in the number of patients who met their target after the pharmacist consulted with their physician to recommend a change in therapy (i.e. dose, amount, new medication, addition/discontinuation of a medication).  Of the patients who were not initially at target and received a therapy change, half successfully reached target by their follow-up appointment.

One of the key benefits of the Diabetes Support Program is that it helped increase the participants’ access to diabetes-related services. Currently, provincial diabetes programs and clinics across Canada provide varying levels of access and support. Some provincial programs and clinics require a physician referral while others charge a fee, and not all offer convenient scheduling outside of standard business hours. Pharmacists were able to provide services that the participants might not otherwise be able to take advantage of.

To ensure fair and equal access to pharmacist interventions for diabetes care across the country, the Sustainable Solutions Report offered a set of recommendations for governments to consider, including increasing scope of practice for pharmacists in all provinces to conduct A1C tests for eligible patients and to access test results.  Pharmacists with training in diabetes management are uniquely positioned to offer accessible and convenient A1C testing and interpretation to patients, and it is important they are able to offer that service in all provinces.

Pharmacists remain an accessible and important resource for Canadians looking to better manage their diabetes.  For more information on diabetes support, speak with your local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist.  And to read the full Sustainable Solutions Report: Pharmacist Interventions in Diabetes, visit