Pharmacist sees opportunities, trailblazes for clients’ health

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Pharmacist sees opportunities, trailblazes for clients’ health

'House calls' for business travelers, HIV prevention for at-risk populations are new paths
Sarah C.B. Guthrie

She’s won awards for pioneering approaches to pharmacy, but UW faculty member Elyse Tung remains modest about her work. “My goal has never been to win an award but to be very productive, offer the best patient care and develop new ways to practice,” she said.

It began simply enough. Based at Kelley-Ross Pharmacy in Seattle, Tung is mainly responsible to provide travel health guidance and care to high-mileage staffers of organizations that work globally. Her patients include employees at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, Vulcan and others. During clinical appointments she provides medications, vaccines and documents they need to work abroad. 

Alex Levine Photography
Tung discusses medication with Kelley-Ross technician Russell Beaulieu, left, and intern Matthew Chui.
picture of Elyse Tung talking with two colleagues at Kelley-Ross Pharmacy

“One day, I had a patient say he was too busy to come by for an appointment at Kelley-Ross, and that gave me an idea,” Tung said.

In talking with Kelley-Ross co-owner (and UW alumnus) Ryan Oftebro, she suggested visiting clients where they worked – a modern-day house call of sorts. A short time later, she was offering the travel clinics onsite at the Gates Foundation. “The idea spread like wildfire because it saves their staff time and trips to their physician and pharmacy.”

Tung offers the clinics and provide this level of patient care under a collaborative practice agreement that allows pharmacists to operate in an expanded role. A medical director oversees and grants the authority for her to prescribe medications and vaccines.  “That flexibility allows me to focus on patient care,“ she said.

With the new Washington law enacted last month, pharmacists will have a more frontline role in patient care. One such example of that is a preventive HIV service, representing another of Tung's efforts to expand pharmacists' value. 

While at a conference in mid-2014, Tung heard a report about the success of a drug, Truvada. Research suggested it was more than 90% effective at preventing transmission of the HIV virus in high-risk populations – when taken every day. Patients need to be closely monitored to confirm they are following that regimen. 

When taken daily, Truvada is highly effective at preventing HIV infection, data suggests.
picture of Truvada bottle

She brought the idea back to Seattle. Working with the medical director, Tung and her pharmacy colleagues developed the protocol to provide the care.

“We are now the first pharmacy in Washington state, and maybe the first pharmacy in the nation, to offer HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis with Truvada.” 

Tung was recently awarded the 2014 Washington State Pharmacy Association Innovative Pharmacy Practice Award and the 2014 Upsher-Smith National Alliance of State Pharmacy Association’s Excellence in Innovation Award.

“Pharmacies are one of the most accessible forms of healthcare for people age 20-40,” she said. “If this program is successful, it could be a model for other pharmacies.”