Wrapping Up an Exciting Year for Pharmacy

DECEMBER 29, 2011
Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor
From a mega-pharmacy benefit merger to pharmacy robberies to a blockbuster drug going off patent, 2011 featured a number of stories that either affected pharmacists a great deal, or to look have a huge impact in the near future. Pharmacy Times has compiled a list of the top stories of the year—the ones we know our readers (and bloggers) will be talking about for quite some time.

1. The Proposed Merger of Medco and Express Scripts
Perhaps no piece of news generated as much coverage—and triggered as many reactions—as the news that Medco Health Solutions planned to acquire Express Scripts. Pharmacists, physicians, and politicians voiced serious their concerns about how the merger will impact the field. Stay tuned for more news on this in 2012.
2. The Drug Shortage Crisis
The fact that there is a shortage of vital drugs may not have been news to some, but in 2011, a report from IMS Health shed light on the magnitude of the problem, raising awareness on a national level and prompting involvement from the federal government.
3. Rising Incidents of Pharmacy Violence
Incidents of pharmacy violence mounted in 2011, with a number of fatal incidents making the headlines, most of which involved patients looking for controlled substances. On the positive side, awareness of how these crimes can be avoided took center stage.
4. Lipitor Goes Off Patent
Although it was a move that the entire industry saw coming, when the most successful branded prescription products ever developed lost its patient protection, it still caused a flurry, and could set a precedent for other blockbuster drugs as they go generic.
5. The Mandatory Mail Order Trend
Another hot-button issue during the past year has been the battle over mandatory mail-order pharmacy. As pharmacy benefit managers sought to produce data proving that mail-order prescriptions can improve medication adherence, retail pharmacies argued that it violates patient rights—and could threaten their businesses. 6. The Dangers of Online Pharmacies
This past summer, an online pharmacy owner operating out of Texas was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison for trafficking a counterfeit version of a weight loss drug. And if the trends continue, more arrests will likely follow. A review of more than 8000 sites that sell prescription drugs found that 96% were operating in conflict with pharmacy laws and practice standards.
7. Rite Aid Initiates 15-minute Rx Guarantee
At a time when the demands of pharmacists seem to keep increasing, the decision made by one national chain to improve customer service generated strong reactions from pharmacists about how the initiative could impact safety and compromise their ability to deliver quality care.
8. Plan B Stays Behind the Counter
What made this such a hot topic is not necessary that the emergency contraceptive would no longer be available over the counter, but instead, the fact that the FDA was overruled by the Department of Health and Human Services on the decision.
9. New Dosing Announced for Acetaminophen
In the spring, the makers of OTC products unveiled an industry-wide initiative to standardize the acetaminophen dose to make it safer and easier for parents and caregivers to dispense the liquid medication. The initiative also includes education for providers to help prevent overdosing.
10. The Evolving Role of Pharmacists
From diabetes care to helping to reduce readmissions, pharmacists have begun to emerge as a key member of the health care team. And as healthcare reform continues to take shape, leaders from the pharmacy associations believe that pharmacists will continue to take on a larger role in patient care.

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