Prediabetes – An Urgent Priority for Pharmacists

By Karen Riley BScPhm, Pharm D, BCPS, BCGP, BCACP, CDE 

At the beginning of every month, I screen for diabetes and hypertension at a community center – and this month was no exception. As I gathered my screening toolkit – a blood glucose monitor, blood pressure machine and educational materials related to both medical conditions, I wondered what I would find during the screening.  Why, from a pharmacists’ perspective, are these health and wellness screenings so important for our patients?

I recently heard some scary statistics that all pharmacists should be aware of. Did you know that the CDC recently issued an announcement that 86 million American adults have pre-diabetes and 9 out of 10 people don’t know that they have it? No wonder the CDC and American Medical Association have initiated their campaign to “Prevent Diabetes Stat – Screen, Test, Act today“

Most patients I speak to understand that eating sugar increases blood sugar. But how many individuals that you speak to understand and how blood sugar is affected with excess carbohydrate consumption? Are they aware of how many grams of sugar is in a large soda?  Or that one 12 oz. can contains almost double the daily sugar allotment for most people?

As pharmacists, we can help fight rising tides of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes by educating our patients and screening for risk factors. Prediabetes means that the blood sugar level is higher than normal, and although patients do not meet the diagnostic criteria for diabetes, it still puts the patient at higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Evidence shows that patients with certain risk factors are more like to develop prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include: age, especially over 45, being overweight or obese; a family history of diabetes; having an African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander racial or ethnic background; a history of gestational diabetes or having given birth to a baby weighing nine pounds or more; and being physically active less than three times a week.

What can pharmacists do? We need to talk about weight with patients, and be equipped to offer them solutions. We can then form partnerships with patients and recommend realistic, achievable goals. If we can help our patients lose just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight and recommend that they get at least 150 minutes of physical activity like brisk walking each week – roughly 10 pounds in a 200 lb. patient and 30 minutes of activity per day – we can help them potentially prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.

What are you waiting for? Pharmacists can make a huge impact in supporting our patients in identifying prediabetes and its risk factors – helping them avoid progression to full scale diabetes.

To join the ranks of healthcare providers fighting obesity, tweet @DrsFightObesity or use #DoctorsFightingObesity to keep the conversation going.


Karen Riley BScPhm, Pharm D, BCPS, BCGP, BCACP, CDE  is president of KD Riley Pharmacist Professional Corporation. She is a Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist providing pharmacy consulting services to a broad range of patients. She serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor with the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Dr. Riley also sits on the Sarnia Lambton Alzheimer Board of Directors and the Lambton Mental Health Board of Directors.  She is a member of the Ideal Protein Medical Advisory Board and is an Ideal Protein Weight Loss Consultant in Sarnia, Ontario.