Brett Dunham, PharmD, EMT-B, was the first student to complete the clinical rotation at PDI Medical. Dunham had long been interested in the field of medical cannabis and was eager to have the opportunity to gain first-hand experience at a dispensary being run by a pharmacist.
“I think what Joe has done and what PDI has done and what pharmacist involvement has done for medical cannabis has propelled it forward so quickly and lent such credibility and worked to really tear down a lot of the taboo associated with it and a lot of the stigma that’s associated with it,” he said.
He said his experience allowed him to hone his clinical counseling skills.
“One of the most important clinical skills that you can have and you can use in this situation is really having an excellent patient rapport and good counseling and developing those counseling skills,” he said.
Many of the patients who come to the dispensary have exhausted many other treatment options before they arrive and have an extensive history and medication list. Dunham, who is now a PGY-1 Pharmacy Resident at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) in Washington, DC, said pharmacists can play a valuable role assisting these complex patients by conducting medication reconciliation.
“You can’t just know cannabis, you have to know everything [about the drugs] that these patients are coming in on. I found several discrepancies that patients would describe as side effects that were absolutely linked to classic interactions between medications that they were getting from three or four doctors,” Dunham said.
Dunham added that there’s also quite a bit of trial and error when working with patients to determine the best administration routes for cannabis.
“Having that intimate knowledge of not only the cannabis industry but of also the pharmaceutical aspect of patient care, something as simple as ‘are you comfortable using this,’ allows for a great deal of interaction and a great deal of creativity on our part,” he said.
Friedman plans to continue to reach out to other pharmacy schools as well in hopes of attracting more partners who will allow this clinical rotation for students.
He believes giving pharmacy students this education during pharmacy school not only advances patient treatment with medical cannabis but also helps students better prepare for the evolving world of pharmacy.
“What this whole model offers up is the opportunity for pharmacists to really practice the profession of pharmacy,” Friedman said.