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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Studies Show Medical Teams with Pharmacists Helped Patients Control Blood Pressure

If you have hypertension, it pays to include a pharmacist in a medical care team.

That is the upshot from research by the University of Iowa that found patients with uncontrolled hypertension had better blood pressure control when being cared for by pharmacists working in care teams (with a physician, for example) than patients who relied mostly on a doctor for medication guidance.

A team affiliated with the University of Iowa College of Public Health participated in this research, including Dr. Christopher Coffey, Dr. Paul James, Dr. Elizabeth Chrischilles, Dr. Tom Vaughn, Ms. Liz Uribe, and Ms. Dixie Ecklund.

The researchers showed pharmacist-included care teams delivered more hands-on and tailored medication regimens to patients, which yielded more effective blood-pressure control results than for those patients who did not have a pharmacist on hand. The results come from two studies, the most recent published in print this month in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension.

“We’ve known for more than 40 years that including pharmacists on medical care teams improved blood pressure control and the management of many chronic conditions,” says Dr. Barry Carter, UI pharmacy professor who led the research teams on both papers. “However, we have had little evidence that such programs could be scaled up and implemented in a large number of diverse medical offices, with wide geographic distribution and serving high numbers of minority populations. This study is the first to address all of these issues and, importantly, demonstrated that subjects from racial and ethnic minority groups had the same degree of blood pressure improvements as the entire population. We also demonstrated, especially in the minority groups, that the effect could be sustained for a full two years after the intervention ended.”

For the studies, UI researchers enrolled 625 patients from various racial backgrounds with uncontrolled hypertension from 32 medical offices across 15 states in the U.S. They then evaluated how well patients were able to control their blood pressure when getting care from a medical team that included a pharmacist compared to being treated by a physician only. The study took place between March 2010 and June 2013. The pharmacists were embedded in the medical office and had long-standing relationships with the physicians, an important distinction from community pharmacists who may not have such relationships with local physicians.

The researchers measured patients’ blood pressure control, the degree and intensity of care they received, and how well they followed medication recommendations.

In the study published this month, the UI team found that patients who saw a medical team that included a clinical pharmacist showed a systolic blood pressure drop of 6.1 mmHg nine months later compared to those who did not see a clinical pharmacist during the same time. A reduction of that scale would reduce the chances of death by stroke by 23 percent, the researchers note.

To read more about these studies, visit