Pharmacy Times

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New Hope for Peanut Allergy

The results of a small pilot study are the first evidence that children with life-threatening peanut allergies may one day be cured. The researchers from Duke University Medical Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital stressed that the approach is still experimental and cautioned parents not to try this on their own.

For the study, which began 5 years ago, children with a history of peanut allergy were given gradually larger daily doses of peanut protein. A group of other allergic children were given a placebo. The starting doses were equivalent to 1/100th of a peanut. After 8 to 10 months of gradual dose increases, most of the children can eat the peanut-flour equivalent of 15 peanuts daily. Of the 33 children participating in the study, 9 have been on maintenance therapy for >2.5 years, and 4 of the children were able to discontinue the treatment and eat peanuts, reported the researchers at the recent meeting of the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy & Immunology.

More research is under way to confirm the pilot study.



Pharmacy Retail Sales See Growth During Economic Downturn

Notwithstanding a slow-growing prescription market, it appears that individuals are still heading to their local drugstores to make purchases.

Recently released data from the US Census Bureau reveal that retail sales among the nation's pharmacies are defying overall trends during this economic recession. In January, sales for the sector grew 2.4%, according to the Bureau's Monthly Retail Sales and Food Services Report.

The revenue boost marks the fifth consecutive month of increased retail sales among the nation's pharmacies. The Census Bureau's December 2008 report showed a 6.4% jump in sales versus a year earlier.



Community Pharmacy Bill Revived in House

A bill designed to level the playing field between the nation's community pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives and holds the support of a bipartisan group of 32 original sponsors.

The "Community Pharmacy Fairness Act of 2009" (HR 1204) would allow the nation's >23,000 community pharmacies to negotiate fairer contracts with PBMs. Independent community pharmacies currently are offered take-it-or-leave-it contracts by the PBMs, a system that differs from the leverage afforded large chains, commented Bruce Roberts, RPh, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

The bill currently pending in the House Judiciary Committee would enable independent pharmacies to negotiate contract terms with PBMs that could protect patients from confusing and restrictive formularies; reduce the preauthorization hassles that create hurdles for patients trying to obtain refills or formulary-restricted medications; and limit the switching of patients to higher cost medications that may not be better for them therapeutically, but earn higher rebates for the PBMs.

"HR 1204 gives us the ability to cater to our patients' needs by restoring a business model that puts each of the respective parties on some semblance of equal footing when negotiating contracts," noted NCPA President Holly Henry, RPh, a pharmacy owner in Seattle.



Everyone Makes Mistakes, But Pharmacists Catch Most

To err is human, but in the case of medication mistakes, slip-ups can have dire consequences. A recent study showed that pharmacists play a key role in preventing such dangerous blunders.

Pharmacists are the most likely to catch medication errors made in primary care practices before they are able to reach the patient, according to a study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Surpassing both physicians and patients in cutting off mistakes at the pass, pharmacist interventions covered 40% of intercepted medication errors. Physicians caught 19%, and patients nabbed 17% of the errors.

Medication mistakes comprised 194 of the total 1265 errors reported in the study. Prescribing errors made up 70% of the medication mishaps, medication administration and documentation issues comprised 10% each, 7% involved drug dispensing errors, and 3% dealt with medication monitoring mistakes.

The prevailing types of errors were incorrect dosage, wrong drug selection, contraindications, communication problems with the pharmacy, and inadequate information on the prescription, the study found.

According to researchers, up to 57% of errors could have been averted by employing health care information technologies.