September 4, 2012
Under a program launched in 2011, the Walgreens pharmacy chain has opened more than 500 "HIV Centers of Excellence" (COEs) in areas of the nation where CDC has found high rates of HIV infection.
Though many customers may not notice a difference, COE stores are "stocked in every kind of HIV drug and all kinds of supplemental products -- nutrition, health care products, topical products -- they might need to deal with side effects," said Collen Armstrong Grosek, a Walgreens specialty pharmacy territory manager. Regular Walgreens stores do not stock many of these items, she said.
COE pharmacists complete the University of Buffalo pharmacy school's HIV/AIDS pharmaceutical care education program, which includes social and cultural training and annual renewals to keep their knowledge current.
COE pharmacists help patients keep up with their care through periodic calls and confidential meetings. Proper treatment adherence can reduce medical problems, emergency room visits and hospital stays, Grosek said. Staff members also assist patients with the various insurance programs and funding mechanisms.
"When somebody knows they're being taken care of properly, there's a great deal of comfort; there's no judgment and there's no stigma," said Peter Houle, executive director of the Delaware HIV Consortium, a nonprofit coordinator of prevention efforts.
A study recently conducted by Walgreens for CDC found the COE program boosts patients' medication adherence, Houle said.
In Wilmington, Delaware, the Walgreens at Ninth and Market streets assists patients with many aspects of care, while providing a safe and comfortable setting -- vital aspects of COE work, said Ambrose Delpino, the pharmacy's manager. Joe Scarborough, a customer of the store, said he appreciates that the pharmacists there are "educated on the different kinds of medications, so they're going to understand the different drug interactions." He added, "I can't imagine going anywhere else."