Our review of the year’s biggest stories in pharmacy—from the Express Scripts-Medco merger to the fungal meningitis outbreak to the disappearance of Primatene Mist from pharmacy shelves.
From the completion of a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) mega-merger to a meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroids, 2012 was yet another big year in pharmacy news. Other major topics in the news included debate over the changing role of pharmacists in the health care system, efforts to counter prescription drug abuse, and the disappearance of a popular OTC asthma inhaler from pharmacy shelves.
Here are the news stories that proved most popular among Pharmacy Times
readers in 2012, including a few stories from late 2011 that proved popular throughout the year, loosely organized by category:
Compounding pharmacy and the meningitis outbreak:
Contaminated steroids produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts have caused more than 600 cases of fungal meningitis and other infections, leading to at least 39 deaths. As a result, the practice of compounding pharmacy has come under intense scrutiny, with consequences that will continue to play out in the coming months.
PBMs and the Express-Scripts Medco merger:
After an 8-month investigation, the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger of 2 of the country’s 3 largest pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), despite intense opposition from organizations representing pharmacists and pharmacies, which argued that it would reduce patient access to community pharmacies and reduce competition for a number of services provided by PBMs.
The role of the pharmacist:
Pharmacists are likely to take on a greater role as health care reform takes effect and efforts to cut health care costs continue. Exactly how the role of the pharmacist will change remains to be seen, but it may involve helping to determine whether patients should take medications such as statins. One potential development to keep an eye on in the coming year: Will Congress give pharmacists Medicare provider status?
Efforts to counter prescription drug abuse:
Abuse of prescription drugs—particular opioid painkillers—remained a major issue in 2012, as did efforts to combat the problem.
The end of Primatene Mist:
Although the removal Primatene Mist from pharmacy shelves at the end of 2011 to accord with an environmental treaty shouldn’t have been a surprise—the FDA announced the removal date in 2008—many fans of the OTC asthma inhaler were angered that it was no longer available.
Technology and pharmacy:
From mobile apps to pills with sensors that help to monitor adherence, the role of technology in pharmacy continues to grow.
Adverse medication effects:
Full understanding of the risks and benefits of medications is essential in deciding whether one should take them.
In addition to the fungal meningitis outbreak, notable outbreaks of whooping cough and West Nile virus also occurred in 2012.
Odds and ends:
Two of our most popular stories of the year defied categorization: new guidelines for treating type 2 diabetes and a study finding that the potency of most ingredients in a cache of prescription drugs discovered decades after their expiration date was undiminished.