A recently released survey of more than 1,500 practicing pharmacists who attended Boston-based Pri-Med Institute's Pharm-Med Updates, a continuing series of medical educational conferences held in six cities last year, found that pharmacists are playing an increasingly active role in patient care.

Pharmacists working in retail environments reported counseling 105 patients per week on average about prescription drugs, and also said that physicians often tell their patients to contact the pharmacist regarding their prescription drugs. In the hospital, the pharmacists said that they propose changes in an average of one in every four prescriptions. The reasons for proposing changes usually included incorrect dosage, potential drug interactions, and a suggested alternative drug on the patient's insurer's formulary. Eighty percent said physicians frequently ask them for advice on a patient's medications, and almost half are responsible for determining dosages.

What does this mean for CME providers? According to Anne Goodrich, Pri-Med Institute's director of research, "While we don't have hard data, just anecdotal evidence, we believe that pharma companies are now recognizing the significance of this audience and allocating funds to educate this audience accordingly via live CE programs. Our pharmacist data supports the need for this trend in the industry." Accordingly, Pri-Med has expanded its Pharm-Med series from six conferences last year to eight in 2004.