When Regina Wu first met Kenneth, she asked him about his diet and exercise — as CVS Health pharmacists routinely do with their patients. Kenneth, a 77-year-old man with diabetes and a sweet tooth who once weighed 286 pounds, said he often drank a liter of soda per day.
Regina immediately sensed a red flag.
“I know that soda is something people can become addicted to in a way,” she says. “It’s caffeinated, high in sugar, and people start to crave a soda fix. And soda is a big problem for blood sugar control.”
Research shows drinking sugary beverages like soda every day could increase a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. For those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, soda consumption can hamper their efforts to keep their blood sugar at an acceptable level.
That certainly was the case with Kenneth. He took his medications diligently, but his A1C reading was 10.1 percent. A normal A1C is less than 5.7 percent, and the goal for type 2 diabetes patients is to keep their A1C levels below 7 percent. Kenneth was struggling enough with his blood sugar that his doctor increased his insulin dosages.
Losing weight and changing eating habits can be challenging if the problem seems large and insurmountable. Regina saw an opportunity to focus on a small, manageable change: reduce Kenneth’s soda intake.
It’s these kinds of interactions that CVS Health had in mind when we created our Medication Therapy Management program. The program is designed to allow CVS pharmacists to engage one-on-one with patients, identifying any barriers in their treatment, recommending lifestyle changes, and creating an ongoing dialogue to ensure that patients are taking their medication and getting the follow-up care they need.
Regina and her colleagues frequently work with type 2 diabetes patients: Approximately 1 in 10 Americans — or about 30 million people — have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the disease typically surfaces in people over age 45, young adults, teens and children are increasingly being diagnosed.
Regina spoke every few months with Kenneth, urging him to drink even just one less can of soda. Then, in 2018, Kenneth was hospitalized with an infection, and he was hospitalized a second time about a year later. After Kenneth came home from the hospital, he cut back to two Diet Cokes a day. By May 2019, his A1C reading was 8.6 percent, much closer to his target level, and he now weighs 240 pounds. He’s on a 50-gram-carbohydrates per day diet, walks more often, his blood pressure levels have improved and his medication dosages have been reduced. He has kicked the soda habit completely, and has become an advocate among his family members to minimize soda drinking.
“I see the pharmacist as part of the care engagement team,” Regina says. “It really takes a village and the pharmacist is someone patients can talk to in between doctor visits or after hospital discharge. They get to know me, I get to know them, and it becomes a friendship, and with that trust, we talk about how to make small changes that can add up.”
To learn more about our enterprise-wide approach to diabetes management and care, visit our Managing Diabetes with CVS Health page.
To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.