Gattis prepared the results of the Duke research for presentation Monday at the 47th annual scientific session of the American College of Cardiology.
The researchers followed 181 patients in Duke's cardiology clinic. All were seen by a team made up of cardiologists, physician assistants and nurses. In addition, 90 of the patients were also seen by a clinical pharmacist. Patients were followed for six months.
The group with the clinical pharmacist intervention experienced three deaths and one rehospitalization, while the non-intervention group reported five deaths and 11 rehospitalizations. While differences in deaths were not statistically significant, there was a significant reduction in the number of re-admissions to the hospital, the researchers concluded.
Patients in the intervention group were more likely to be on a higher dose of ACE-inhibitors, a class of drugs which is very important in reducing future events and deaths for heart failure patients, Gattis said.
"Clinical pharmacists have been extremely helpful -- both for physicians and patients -- in evaluating the side effects of drugs and their interactions with each other," O'Connor said.
"The types of interactions are very complex," he continued. "Heart failure patients are commonly on six to seven different medications, as well as another two to three over-the-counter drugs. Having a clinical pharmacist on hand to sort out these interactions lets me focus on other areas of treatment, including psychological and social issues, family dynamics, and decision-making on invasive surgical procedures, including bypass or transplantation."