Pharmacy is ideally placed to offer patients support on losing and managing their weight.

There are a variety of services and tools at a pharmacist’s fingertips but the key is matching the right one to the right patient, writes Catherine Cooper.

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Sibby Buckle, a community pharmacist working across several pharmacies in Nottingham, says pharmacists are an important weapon in the battle against obesity.

She took part in a funded trial several years ago where customers had their BMI tested, were set a target weight and given advice on diet and exercise.

“Most people did very well,” she says. “It was remarkably successful – it’s a shame the funding was pulled.”

Buckle is an advocate of including discussion of weight management during patients’ annual Medicines Use Reviews.

“Being overweight can lead to several health problems – high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, or diabetes, and a pharmacist can help you manage that. Similarly, if you lose weight, it’s important to have your medication checked as your dosage or need for it may change.”

She adds that a pharmacy-run weight management service is particularly useful for people who need support with healthy eating and exercise but don’t want to join a class or online service such as Slimming World or WeightWatchers – especially men.

There is plenty of advice about healthy eating online but most pharmacists say their patients value the support provided by face-to-face contact and help through what can be quite a difficult time for some psychologically.

“Some people find weight management a real challenge,” Buckle adds, “and being able to talk to the pharmacist can be a great source of support.”

All pharmacies have a consulting room and it can be easier to manage consultations about weight if an appointment system is set up. Trained dispensers can also carry out health checks as long as the results are checked over and interpreted by a pharmacist before being given to the customer.

There are various supplements that claim to aid with weight loss, but many do not have a public licence number and are not clinically proven. However, supplements can play an important part in healthy weight management.

For example, someone taking a fat-absorbing drug like Xenical can make it harder for your body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K, so many pharmacists will advise taking a multi-vitamin supplement alongside these drugs.

“Knowing about someone’s motivation for weight management makes all the difference,” adds Sid Dajani, superintendant pharmacist at Wainwright’s Chemist in Bishopstoke, Hampshire.

“It’s important to gather as much information as possible about the patient for the best outcome. Because we are in the community, pharmacists are really well placed to do this.”

Join us tomorrow as we explore views from across pharmacy.