Open Access Open Badges Research article

Can community retail pharmacist and diabetes expert support facilitate insulin initiation by family physicians? Results of the AIM@GP randomized controlled trial

Stewart B Harris1*, Hertzel C Gerstein2, Jean-François Yale3, Lori Berard4, John Stewart5, Susan Webster-Bogaert1 and Jordan W Tompkins1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, 245-100 Collip Circle, London, Ontario, N6G 4X8, Canada

2 Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Health Sciences Centre Room 3 V38, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4K1, Canada

3 Department of Medicine, McGill University, Royal Victoria Hospital, 687 Pine Avenue West, M9.05, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1A1, Canada

4 Health Sciences Centre, 820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3A 1R9, Canada

5 sanofi-aventis, 2150 St. Elzear Blvd. West, Laval, Quebec, H7L 4A8, Canada

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:71  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-71

Published: 21 February 2013



Limited evidence exists on the effectiveness of external diabetes support provided by diabetes specialists and community retail pharmacists to facilitate insulin-prescribing in family practice.


A stratified, parallel group, randomized control study was conducted in 15 sites across Canada. Family physicians received insulin initiation/titration education, a physician-specific ‘report card’ on the characteristics of their type 2 diabetes (T2DM) population, and a registry of insulin-eligible patients at a workshop. Intervention physicians in addition received: (1) diabetes specialist/educator consultation support (active diabetes specialist/educator consultation support for 2 months [the educator initiated contact every 2 weeks] and passive consultation support for 10 months [family physician initiated as needed]); and (2) community retail pharmacist support (option to refer patients to the pharmacist(s) for a 1-hour insulin-initiation session). The primary outcome was the insulin prescribing rate (IPR) per physician defined as the number of insulin starts of insulin-eligible patients during the 12-month strategy.


Consenting, eligible physicians (n = 151) participated with 15 specialist sites and 107 community pharmacists providing the intervention. Most physicians were male (74%), and had an average of 81 patients with T2DM. Few (9%) routinely initiated patients on insulin. Physicians were randomly allocated to usual care (n = 78) or the intervention (n = 73). Intervention physicians had a mean (SE) IPR of 2.28 (0.27) compared to 2.29 (0.25) for control physicians, with an estimated adjusted RR (95% CI) of 0.99 (0.80 to 1.24), p = 0.96.


An insulin support program utilizing diabetes experts and community retail pharmacists to enhance insulin prescribing in family practice was not successful. Too few physicians are appropriately intensifying diabetes management through insulin initiation, and aggressive therapeutic treatment is lacking.

Trial registration NCT00593489

Clinical inertia; Family practice; Insulin; Pharmacists; Type 2 diabetes mellitus