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Medication Adherence Campaign Launches in CA

InnovationRx's new medication adherence awareness campaign is targeting California pharmacists and patients. The campaign, a pilot for a nationwide effort, aims to provide pharmacists with resources to help their patients achieve medication adherence and improve health.

"Pharmacists play an important role in advocating for a patient's health, and medication adherence is a critical topic, including the over- and underutilization of medication, that should be regularly discussed with patients when dispensing medications," said Paul Lofholm, PharmD, independent pharmacy owner and president of the California Pharmacists Association. "Patients can optimize their health through the appropriate use of medication, and pharmacists are uniquely positioned and encouraged to help patients understand the value of their medication regimen and to follow their doctors instructions."

InnovationRx is collaborating with the American Pharmacists Association, the FDA's Office of Women's Health, and Pharmacists Planning Service Inc. Visit www.innovationrx.com for more information.


Gearing Up for Part D Open Season

The annual open enrollment period for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from November 15 through December 31, and pharmacists are likely to encounter senior patients with questions about choosing the right plan.

With plans changing their offerings from year-to-year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is urging beneficiaries to review their current plans and look at other options to find the one that best meets their needs. Beneficiaries should have received notice of any coverage changes from their current prescription drug plan by October 31.

"Some beneficiaries may see significant premium increases or changes, such as reduced coverage in the gap, if they stay in the same prescription drug plan in 2009," according to Kerry Weems, CMS acting administrator.

A recent analysis of the newly released Part D premiums by staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that 16.3 million Medicare beneficiaries—92% of all Part D enrollees—will be forced to pay higher premiums if they wish to remain in the same plan.

To help beneficiaries navigate the open enrollment process, many chain drugstores and independent pharmacies have in-store and Web-based tools. A list of national stand-alone prescription drug plans and state-specific fact sheets can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov/center/openenrollment.asp. Beneficiaries also may call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227), available 24/7, for more information.


2008 NCPA Digest Paints Positive Picture

The National Community Pharmacists Association's (NCPA) newly released 2008 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, spells good news for independent community pharmacies.

The number of independent community pharmacies in operation has held steady since last year at 23,318, which comprise 39.4% of the nation's retail pharmacies. Last year's Digest provided an inside look into how the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan had played a leading role in reducing the number of independent community pharmacies by 5%. This year's report, however, shows that independent community pharmacies are adjusting to new market conditions and sustaining their viability.

In 2007, independent community pharmacies represented an $84 billion share of the marketplace, with $78 billion derived from prescription sales alone. These pharmacies dispensed >1.4 billion prescription drugs, with an average generic utilization rate of 61%, helping to reduce the price of the average prescription drug dispensed at independent community pharmacies by almost $4 from last year.

Furthermore, independent community pharmacies continue to remain competitive in the technology arena. The Digest found that more than half of independent pharmacies have a Web site, offering prescription refills or OTC products. Also, nearly 70% of independents are connected to receive electronic prescriptions from providers or electronic prescribing.


Bartell Joins Pharmacy Times Strategic Alliance

Bartell Drugs is the newest drugstore chain to join the Pharmacy Times Strategic Alliance Program. Located throughout Washington State, Bartell Drugs is the oldest family-owned drugstore chain with 55 stores.

The company was founded in 1890 by 21-year-old Kansas pharmacist George H. Bartell Sr. George D. Bartell, grandson of the founder, serves as chairman and chief executive officer. Jean (Bartell) Barber, the founder's granddaughter, is the chief financial officer of the company.

The chain has many innovative patient-care programs, including immunizations at in-house clinics and on-site at local businesses, traveling osteoporosis screenings, and medication therapy management services. For more information, visit www.bartelldrugs.com.


Congress Extends Freeze on TRICARE Copays

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, recently signed into law, preserves pharmacy choice for TRICARE beneficiaries, extending for 1 year the current freeze on their retail pharmacy copayments.

The freeze ensures that 9 million active duty personnel, retirees, and their families will not face cost increases for obtaining prescription drugs and services from retail pharmacies. The legislation has been a priority for community pharmacy groups in order to prevent efforts to drive TRICARE beneficiaries to mail order.

"The brave men and women who serve and sacrifice for our nation deserve a choice when it comes to choosing where to obtain their prescription medications," said Steven Anderson, IOM, CAE, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.


UA College of Pharmacy Wins Coveted Competition

A team of pharmacy students from the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy are the proud recipients of the National Community Pharmacists Association's (NCPA) 2008 Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition. A team from the Samford University McWhorten School of Pharmacy came in second, and a team representing the University of Kansas finished third.

The announcement made at the NCPA 110th Annual Convention marks the fifth year of the competition. This year's competition drew entries from 30 schools and colleges of pharmacy—nearly one-third of all US pharmacy schools.

"The NCPA Foundation is focused on preserving the legacy of independent community pharmacies, and what better way to ensure that outcome than to sponsor a competition that teaches pharmacy students about ownership," said Sharlea Leatherwood, PD, NCPA Foundation president. "The plans the winning 3 teams submitted were truly excellent roadmaps to success."

The competition is named to honor 2 champions of independent community pharmacy, the late Neil Pruitt Sr and H. Joseph Schutte. The competition is supported by the Pruitt and Schutte families, the NCPA Foundation, and Covidien.


Rite Aid Launches Diabetes Outreach Effort

Rite Aid is teaming up with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the online diabetes resource, dLife, to increase awareness and educate patients on the growing diabetes epidemic. The campaign offers patients free information on diabetes prevention and management at all Rite Aid stores and online.

Among the resources: a 16-page Diabetes Guide with important information about risk factors, weight management, and safe treatment options for health conditions, such as gum disease, dry eyes, and wound and foot care. The drugstore also is supporting diabetes research by supporting 80 ADA-sponsored walks across the country during the month of November.

Rite Aid maintains a comprehensive Web site year-round, dedicated to diabetes education and awareness, www.riteaiddiabetes.com. It features tips on managing and living with diabetes, articles covering such topics as nutrition and blood glucose monitoring, frequently asked questions, and a section devoted to family and caregivers.


One-Stop Searching: FDA Creates New Drug Safety Web Page

Patients and health care professionals can now go to a single page on the FDA's Web site to find a wide variety of information about prescription drugs. Establishing the Web page is one of the requirements of the FDA Amendments of 2007.

The Web page, www.fda.gov/cder/drugSafety.htm, provides links to the latest drug-specific information (eg, labeling, FDA press announcements, fact sheets, safety alerts, and podcasts), as well as directs users to searchable databases of post-market studies and clinical trials.

"By placing Web links to these up-to-date resources on a single page, we're helping consumers and health care professionals find drug safety information faster and easier," said Paul Seligman, MD, MPH, associate director of safety policy and communication in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.


Revised Labeling for Kids' OTC Cough, Cold Meds Coming?

The modified labels for oral OTC pediatric cough and cold medicines prompted retail pharmacies to educate the public on potential treatment options for this new class of medicines. Throughout the 2008-2009 cough and cold season, manufacturers will be transitioning onto store shelves these medicines with the new labels and packaging.

A recent FDA public hearing on the issue resulted in leading manufacturers of these medicines to voluntarily transition the labeling on oral OTC pediatric cough and cold medicines to state "do not use" in children younger than 4 years of age. Furthermore, for products containing certain antihistamines, manufacturers are voluntarily adding new language that cautions parents not to use antihistamine products to sedate or make a child sleepy.

Efforts by CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens to inform individuals of the FDA's recommendations and pending label changes include in-store signage in the cough and cold section. Individuals also are encouraged to speak with CVS and Walgreens pharmacists about potential treatment options for cold and allergy symptoms in children under age 4.


?Parents Rethinking How to Treat Colds

Parents are facing a challenging cold and flu season with the FDA's warnings about the safety of children's cold medicine and manufacturers voluntarily revising labels on these medicines.

A recent survey, released by Katz Inc, found that currently 70% of parents with children under the age of 4 said they give their children cold medicine when they are sick, as do 74% of parents with kids under the age of 6 and 80% of parents with children aged 7 to 12. When questioned if they plan to change the way they treat their children's colds this season because of the FDA's warning, 64% of parents who currently give their children cold medicine either plan to stop (34%) or are considering it (30%).


New Law Targets Methamphetamine Production

The retail pharmacy community and law enforcement secured an important victory last month with passage of the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act. The bipartisan legislation will facilitate the adoption and use of electronic logbook systems that are used to trace sales of methamphetamine precursors.

Certain chemicals that are necessary to produce methamphetamine are readily available in household products or OTC cold or allergy medicines. Although current law restricts the amount of these products that can be purchased at one time by a single person, some meth producers have been able to get around restrictions by "smurfing"—purchasing illegal amounts of the precursor products by traveling to multiple pharmacies and buying small quantities at each. The new law improves upon the 2006 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act with provisions facilitating the use of electronic logbooks instead of written ones and promoting the use of bar code reader technology.