Gateway Apothecary in St. Louis, Mo., has received a Peter M. Fox Excellence in HIV Credentialing Award for 2014. Gateway was the only pharmacy to be recognized among the 17 nationwide award recipients, which consist primarily of physicians and/or medical practices.
Presented annually by the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM), the award recognizes HIV practices where all the eligible health care providers hold an HIV Specialist, HIV Expert or HIV Pharmacist credential from AAHIVM. To be considered, pharmacists must maintain a current, valid pharmacist license in the state or region of practice; must have graduated from an accredited school of pharmacy; must have direct, ongoing involvement in the care of at least 20 HIV patients over the 24 months preceding the date of application; and must have completed a minimum of 30 credits or activity hours of HIV-related continuing education within the 24 months preceding the date of application and passed a rigorous examination.
More than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and the Center for Disease Control estimates 50,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed each year. With new drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS, the number of AIDS-related deaths in the U.S. has dropped dramatically.
"Years ago, an HIV diagnosis was basically considered a death sentence," says Chris Geronsin, pharmacist and owner of Gateway Apothecary. "Today, the disease is very manageable. Many studies have shown that with a near-perfect adherence rate, the viral load in HIV patients is almost undetectable."
With nearly 9,000 new HIV diagnoses over two decades in the St. Louis region alone, Geronsin identified an opportunity for Gateway to collaborate with area physicians in a program to improve adherence rates for their HIV patients. Geronsin's pharmacy has supported HIV patients since the 1990s and today Gateway pharmacists support nearly 700 HIV patients monthly.
"With the improved adherence, we've seen dramatic reductions in the viral loads of some patients we had been very concerned about," adds Geronsin. When taken as directed, anti-HIV treatment can reduce the amount of HIV in the bloodstream to very low levels and sometimes enable the body's immune cells to rebound to normal levels, according to The Foundation for AIDS Research.
"Our program engages patients from the time they're diagnosed with HIV through each medication refill," says Geronsin. "Through frequent communication with patients and their support teams, we make sure patients are sticking to their medications and living the healthiest lives possible."
In an effort to boost adherence rates among their HIV patient population, Gateway Apothecary introduced an adherence program using Parata PASS ™ (Patient Adherence Strip System) packaging. As a result, Gateway's HIV patients using strip packaging have an average adherence rate of 95 percent — the near-perfect score needed to keep the viral load at extremely low levels.
As more physicians and case managers learn of the program, they continue to refer their HIV patients to Gateway Apothecary in order to take advantage of the packaging and the comprehensive adherence program.
To learn more about how Gateway Apothecary has helped improve medication adherence for HIV patients, see this in-depth Parata customer success story. Chris Geronsin also shares advice for other pharmacists in his 5 Ways for Pharmacies to Support Patients Managing HIV tip sheet.