October 13, 2020
By Julie Gould
Walgreens has recently announced two new solutions aimed at supporting patients with chronic and acute pain. In this interview, Darem Dughri, senior director of pharmacy operations, and Tyler Liebegott, PharmD, pharmacy manager, both at Walgreens, discuss the solutions for this patient population, and they highlight the benefits of these offerings for both patients and pharmacists.
Can you discuss the recent announcement from Walgreens regarding personalized support and other solutions for pain management?
Mr Dughri: Walgreens announced two new offerings to support people with chronic and acute pain. The first related to a need for additional training for our pharmacy team members to enable them to best help patients manage their pain, which led us to coordinate a comprehensive pain training for all our pharmacists. As a result, we offer customers free, one-on-one consultations with Walgreens pharmacists who received specialized training in providing empathetic care and personalized pain management solutions. These consultations are available in-store, over the phone and via Pharmacy Chat, which is available online and through the Walgreens app. Since the training launched in December 2019, Walgreens pharmacists have conducted more than 30,000 pain consultations. The second is the US launch of Walgreens brand diclofenac gel, a generic prescription-strength arthritis pain relief medication in topical form, which is available over-the-counter at Walgreens and Walgreens.com.
What are the benefits of these offerings for both patients and pharmacists?
Mr Dughri: Pain can be difficult to manage, and there is a wide range of therapies and solutions available. Walgreens pharmacists are specially trained to help patients navigate the plethora of over-the-counter medications and therapies available to them and help determine what options might be right for them.
Earlier this year diclofenac gel became the first prescription to over-the-counter switch in the pain category in 25 years. With the launch of Walgreens diclofenac gel, patients now have access to a comparable high-quality, generic arthritis pain solution at a lower price.
Our comprehensive pain training, combined with an assortment of innovative pain solutions, ensure patients receive personalized, empathetic care from our pharmacists that is tailored to each patient’s unique situation, pain type and history.
Dr Liebegott: I’m a Pittsburgh-based pharmacy manager, and usually about 20- to 30% of my patient conversations are regarding some type of pain. At my store, which gets a lot of foot traffic, we actually receive many questions regarding over-the-counter pain solutions, which provides us an opportunity to have clinical conversations and build meaningful relationships with our patients. As a result of Walgreens’ in-depth pain management training program, I am able to better engage patients with care and compassion and help them set achievable goals.
Why is community care so important, especially within the current health care landscape?
Mr Dughri: Our stores have always been at the heart of America’s communities – a role we take very seriously, especially during this unprecedented time for our country. As people across the country have sheltered in place, Walgreens has remained open and patients have relied on us more than ever before, not only to provide access to their medications, but as a trusted health care resource. We know that patients are looking for guidance and factual, up-to-date information, as well as safe and convenient access to health care and their medicines. In addition to pain management, our pharmacists have received specialized training to help patients manage a number of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and mental health. During a time when community care is more important than ever before, patients can rest assured knowing that their local Walgreens pharmacy remains a trusted resource for the support, expertise and products they need both now and into the future.
Dr Liebegott: Community care is more important now than ever before. My goal is provide the best level of care, not just by suggesting an over-the-counter treatment or filling prescriptions, but also by serving as a trusted advisor for customers and patients to rely on, someone they can express their feelings to. Being able to walk into a Walgreens and talk to a trusted health care provider is critical to providing quality care to communities. By finding different ways to assist our patients, we can help deliver positive patient outcomes and potentially lower some of the possible costs within the health care system, such as reducing the number of times patients need to visit the emergency room to address their pain, for example.
How do you think this will impact the future of care? Will this solution help improve other areas of pain management?
Mr Dughri: As the most accessible health care providers, pharmacists are becoming even more involved in the care of their patients. This and other specialized trainings we provide to our pharmacists will help shape a future in which all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care in their communities and builds upon the important role pharmacists have in the patients’ care team.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr Liebegott: Pain management is extremely personal to me. I was born with a rare genetic disorder, mitochondrial disease, and live with chronic pain, which fueled my desire to help others and led me to a career as a Walgreens pharmacist. While I was a pharmacy student, I saw my mom struggle with pain as a result of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. In school, I took electives around pain management to see if I could come up with additional ideas to make my mom more comfortable, so I really appreciate how Walgreens offers our customers traditional, innovative and personalized pain management therapy options so we can support and empower patients living with pain to lead better lives. I have the same goal for each of my patients that I had for my mom: To make life comfortable enough so it’s worth living with a purpose.
Tyler Liebegott, PharmD, has been working in the health care industry for most of his career. He joined Walgreens while attending pharmacy school five years ago and is now a pharmacy manager. Dr Liebegott grew up in a small town and saw the longstanding connections the community pharmacists formed with their patients, and he wanted to have that same kind of positive impact.
Darem Dughri, senior director of pharmacy operations at Walgreens, has worked at Walgreens for 16 years. He joined the company as a pharmacy intern and over the course of his career has held a number of positions in-store and at the corporate office. In his current role, he oversees community pharmacy operations for more than 9200 locations across the country.