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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
AN AJP/BOOTS HEALTHCARE ADVERTORIAL cover story Pharmacy’s solution when headache strikes Despite a widespread belief that headaches are a trivial complaint, they can often be debilitating and indicative of other health concerns, thus requiring careful attention in the pharmacy A recent Newspoll survey found that almost eight out of 10 Australians claim to suffer from headaches.1 Yet the survey also found that almost three-quarters of the population consider headache to be a minor health condition.1 This is contrary to the position of Headache Australia, an initiative of the Brain Foundation, which sees a considerable population health impact from headache disorders and aims to reduce their incidence by initiating patient support, community education and research. Headache’s debilitating nature According to Gerald Edmunds, national executive director of Headache Australia: ‘The survey showed that there is a widespread perception that headache is a trivial complaint, when in fact it is a debilitating condition that can cause physical, emotional, social and economic burden. The campaign is a direct response to address this misconception. ‘It is estimated that there are over two million sufferers of tension and other types of headaches, and at least two million people who suffer from migraine in Australia. Still, headache continues to be under-recognised, misdiagnosed and often misunderstood by the public and some healthcare professionals,’ he said. The survey revealed that only two out of 10 Australians consider headache to be a major health condition,1 despite the World Health Organisation classifying headache as a ‘disability’ and calling for a more serious approach to the condition.2 This points to a general lack of public awareness about headaches and their impact on individual sufferers, their carers, family and colleagues, and society. It appears that both consumers and healthcare professionals should take headaches more seriously and sufferers should consult their pharmacist or GP about their condition. Understanding headache To support pharmacists in their role, Headache Australia in conjunction with Nurofen, has helped to produce a consumer brochure, called Understanding Headache, that outlines important information about the causes of headache, and relevant treatment advice, which can be passed on to their customers. 154 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL 86 MARCH 2005 The brochure includes a ‘tick test’ (see below), which is designed to aid headache sufferers. If one or more of the statements is true for the person taking the test, then it identifies that they should seek the advice of a healthcare professional for their headache. HEADACHE TICK TEST You have suddenly developed bad headaches Your headaches are particularly severe, frequent, unfamiliar or associated with visual disturbances Your headaches are associated with nausea, stiff neck or sensitivity to light, sound or smell. You develop headaches, or the nature of your headache changes, after starting on the oral contraceptive pill You think your headache is related to a blow or injury Pharmacists or their assistants are often the first point of call for people seeking advice and treatment for headache and, as a result, are often ideally positioned to educate customers on the importance of managing their condition. Pharmacy assistants Pharmacy assistants should be effectively trained to adapt protocols developed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia for managing pharmacy and pharmacist-only medicines, for the customer with a headache. This enables them to correctly respond to customer requests by asking key questions that help to determine which customers need to be referred to the pharmacist. By adapting the WHAT, STOP, GO protocols (see box opposite), or other approved protocols, to deal with headache- related inquiries, and asking the questions from the headache tick test (above), pharmacy assistants can effectively play their role to help the customer with headache complaints or identify those who may require the expert support of the pharmacist or doctor. If a customer answers ‘yes’ to any of the questions from the headache tick test, then the assistant should immediately refer the customer to the pharmacist. ?