Getting to know... a pharmacist

Janine Barnes is a Neurology Specialist Pharmacist at the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.

I’ve always been fascinated by the intricacies of the human brain and how drugs affect different parts of the body. I completed a PhD in neuropharmacology in 1989, having wanted to be a pharmacist for as long as I can remember. It was during my PhD that I became particularly keen to learn more about Parkinson’s, especially because so little was known about this common movement disorder at the time.

Day-to-day I run a Parkinson’s clinic and help people manage their symptoms with dopaminergic therapy – medication that regulates the levels of dopamine in the brain, such as levodopa. I also refer people with Parkinson’s to therapists in our multidisciplinary team, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists. This helps to keep the medication that I prescribe to the lowest possible dose, as exercise and being active can improve mobility too. I also respond to medication queries from patients, carers, GPs and consultants.

I remember working with a local Parkinson’s group where I was touched by the courage and determination of the people I met. Having this kind of contact with people with Parkinson’s is something I love about my job because I know I am making a difference. People with the condition are often prescribed complex medication regimes and it’s so rewarding to be able to help them control their symptoms. I’ve met some lovely people over the years.

I was put forward for the ‘I Love my Pharmacist’ award by a patient and I was fortunate enough to be a regional finalist. This award meant a lot to me, as it showed the support from the people that I care for.

I think understanding Parkinson’s is key. I help deliver education sessions on Parkinson’s to hospital staff and GPs, as well as information sessions for patients and carers. It is so important that a person with Parkinson’s has the same level of care in hospital and out in the community. As part of this I am involved in updating Parkinson’s guidelines. This included two years reviewing best practice for the Parkinson’s 2017 NICE guidelines.

The future of Parkinson’s medication is really promising. Some of the best medications used to control Parkinson’s symptoms were discovered and licensed back in the 1960s. Now, researchers are exploring neuroprotective drugs. These have the potential to prevent nerve cells that produce dopamine from deteriorating, which could stop Parkinson’s symptoms getting worse. It will be a huge step forward for people with the condition.

My advice to anyone with Parkinson’s is to talk your pharmacist. I don’t think enough people know how we can help as medication experts. A pharmacist can review any drugs you take (not just for Parkinson’s) in a holistic way, to make sure they really help you manage your day-to-day life.