The UniHealth Foundation has awarded the USC School of Pharmacy a grant of $452,475 over three years to fund a comprehensive asthma treatment program that benefits children in Orange County.
The program will bring clinical pharmacy services to low-income neighborhoods by way of the Orange County Asthma Breathmobile � a mobile van that travels to local preschools and elementary schools.
A full-time clinical pharmacist will ride the Breathmobile, providing children and parents with a greater understanding of the different types of medications and how to prevent asthma attacks.
“The advantage to having a clinical pharmacist on board is that he or she can work closely with the children and parents at the school site,” said Kathleen Johnson, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and pharmaceutical economics and policy.
“The pharmacist will help determine appropriate therapies based on formulary accessibility, provide caregiver education and resolve problems with medication misuse, noncompliance and side effects,” Johnson said.
Another key component of the UniHealth-funded program includes identifying local pharmacists eager to take an active role in the management of asthma patients. These community pharmacists will receive special training to help them reinforce proper medication use at the time of prescription refill, Johnson said.
“Measures of success for the program include an increase in patient adherence with medications to prevent attacks, a decrease in the frequency of refills for medications used during an attack and a reduction in emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” she added.
Asthma causes the airway to become blocked or narrowed, which results in breathing difficulties that may require emergency treatment. According to the American Lung Association, asthma is the leading serious chronic illness among children and the main cause of hospitalization for children under the age of 15.
Initiated in 2001 by physician Stanley Galant, the Orange County Asthma Breathmobile is a project of the CHOC Foundation for Children, which provides medical care to children from low-income families who have asthma or are at-risk for developing asthma.
“There is a documented disparity between prevalence of asthma among children from low-income and moderate-income families, as well as a disparity in use of appropriate medications,” said Steven Chen, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy. “Reasons for the disparity may include heavier exposure to allergens, limited access to health care and an inability to recognize or use asthma medications correctly among low-income populations.”
Along with Johnson, Chen will develop the protocol for asthma disease management and treatment outcomes. Jeffery Goad, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, will oversee the community pharmacist outreach component of the program and coordinate participation by pharmacy students and pharmacy residents.
“A major barrier to care is that many providers do not know the drug formulary for the patient’s health-care coverage,” Chen said. “The Breathmobile pharmacist will be up-to-date on formulary requirements and ensure that the proper medications are prescribed and used appropriately by patients.”
Once a diagnosis is made, pharmacists can manage all aspects of asthma therapy, from helping a young patient and parent understand the disease to creating an asthma treatment plan, Chen said.