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News Caps

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Iowa Pharmacists Pilot TakeAway Rx Disposal


A community pharmacist–based prescription collection and disposal pilot was recently launched in the Hawkeye State. The TakeAway program is under the auspices of the Iowa Pharmacy Association in partnership with Sharps Compliance Corporation, and it is aimed at providing Iowa residents with a safe, easy way to dispose of unwanted and expired medications, while also helping to prevent abuse or diversion of unused drugs and contamination of groundwater streams when they are flushed down the sink or toilet. The program is open to the state’s approximately 600 independent and regional chain pharmacies. Any prescription or OTC pharmaceutical product can be accepted for disposal, with the exception of controlled substances. Patients can hand their unwanted or expired medications over to participating pharmacists who will insert the meds into Sharps’ RxTakeAway System; when the box is full, it will be dispatched to an incineration facility where the wasteto- energy incineration process will be witnessed by law enforcement. TakeAway is being funded initially through a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. For more information, go to www.iarx.org/ takeaway.

SC Medicaid Program Targets “Doctor Hoppers”

In efforts to thwart prescription drug abuse while saving taxpayer dollars, South Carolina’s Medicaid agency will limit some recipients to 1 pharmacy for the filling of their prescriptions. After reportedly saving taxpayers $6700 per patient in 9 months of the “pharmacy lock-in” pilot project that included 48 patients, the agency has announced that it will enroll an additional 200 Medicaid recipients by early next year. Aimed at addressing the practice of doctor-hopping—in which drug-seeking patients visit with multiple doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions—the program will allow the pharmacy where a patient is served to keep better track of prescriptions filled by the individual. Participants in the program are chosen by reviewing past claims to determine drug-seeking behavior. Close to 1 million South Carolina residents are covered by Medicaid. Through the 9-month pilot program, the state’s Medicaid agency reported a 40% decrease in prescriptions being filled by recipients, as well as a 21% drop in hospital visits. North Carolina has had a similar program in place since 2006, which reportedly saved the state a total of $932,000 last fiscal year.


Extreme Weather Can Trigger Heart Attacks

Recent research has shown that when temperatures take a dramatic spike or plunge, the risk of heart attacks increases. Although excessive heat or cold has been associated with higher death risk through a number of causes, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom set out to pinpoint the effect of temperature on heart attack incidence. Reviewing 19 studies on temperature and heart attack, the investigators found that cold boosts the risk of myocardial infarction more in places that are typically warmer, but heat creates the same increased threat of heart attack whether it occurs in an area where residents are acclimated to high temperatures or not. Although the reviewed studies provided significant risk increases in extreme temperatures, the researchers recommend additional study in order to measure the effects, as well as identify individuals particularly vulnerable to them.


Washington Pharmacists Can Prescribe Antivirals During Influenza Outbreak

Pharmacists in Washington state would be able to prescribe antiviral medications in the event of an influenza outbreak under a new collaborative drug therapy agreement (CDTA) involving the University of Washington’s Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, the Washington State Pharmacy Association, and Seattle and King County Public Health. Under the agreement, pharmacists can fill out a CDTA at any time and submit it to the state board of pharmacy. At that point, they would be prepared to prescribe antivirals if necessary, but would only be authorized to do so when notified by public health officers. The project is supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic preparedness funds. Information about the protocol for pharmacists is available at www.nwcphp.org/centersprojects/ cdta.


Movement Builds to Halt Organized Retail Crime

Federal officials are focusing attention on combating organized retail crime (ORC), a problem for businesses and consumers alike. A recent hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security addressed the issue, particularly pushing for stronger legislation to thwart the growth of ORC. “As health care providers, we are glad to see that Congress is focusing on organized retail crime as a direct threat to patient health and safety, and to our economy,” said Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. ORC involves individuals stealing large quantities of retail items from a variety of retail outlets, with the intent of reselling the items online and through other means. Aimed at helping to address the threat of ORC are 3 pieces of proposed legislation. The “E-Fencing Enforcement Act of 2009” (HR 1166), introduced by Rep Bobby Scott (D, VA), is focused on the practice of e-fencing, or selling stolen goods online. Reps Brad Ellsworth (D, IN) and Jim Jordan (R, OH) sponsored the “Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009” (HR 1173), a measure that calls for a comprehensive solution to ORC and the resale of the stolen merchandise. Similar to HR 1173 is a bill of the same name (S 470), introduced by Sen Richard Durbin (D, IL).


Inappropriate Antibiotic Treatment May Lead to Extra Days in Hospital

Hospitalized patients who acquire skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) may be more likely to receive inappropriate antibiotic treatment at the beginning of their treatment. The results of an Ortho-McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs LLC study, completed at the Henry Ford Health System, were recently presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. The study included medical records of 368 patients who were hospitalized between late 2005 and 2008 with an admission diagnosis of a complicated skin and skin structure infection. In the analysis, patients were considered to have a health care–associated infection if they were: (1) recently hospitalized, (2) immunocompromised, (3) on hemodialysis, or (4) admitted from a nursing home. If antibiotics active against the infecting pathogen(s) were administered within 24 hours of admission, the initial empiric therapy was considered appropriate. The researchers found that, among patients whose infection was confirmed by culture, those who acquired an infection in a hospital or health care setting were more likely to receive inappropriate treatment than those who acquired an infection in a community setting (35.2% vs 20.5%; P <.01). Furthermore, patients who received inappropriate therapy in the beginning of their stay remained in the hospital an average of almost 6 days longer than patients who received appropriate initial treatment. Study authors hope that this research will help guide clinicians in the appropriate treatment of SSTIs.


Greene Honored with 2009 CARE Pharmacy Award

Virginia pharmacist Heather Greene, PharmD, is this year’s recipient of the 2009 CARE Pharmacy Award cosponsored by Eisai Inc and the Alzheimer’s Association. Now in its 9th year, the CARE Pharmacy Award recognizes the extraordinary impact that pharmacists can have on the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their families. As a geriatric consultant pharmacist with the Riverside Health System at the Richmond, Virginia, PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) facility, Greene is a member of an interdisciplinary team that provides care for some of the area’s frailest seniors. Greene, who received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the School of Pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, was described in her nomination as a professional “who goes far beyond being a pharmacist when she works with patients and their families.” The Pharmacy Care award is an outgrowth of Eisai’s human health care mission, which is to give first thought to patients and their families, and to increasing the benefits that health care provides. “Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease for individuals, as well as for their caregivers and family members,” said Cynthia Schwalm, president, US Pharmaceuticals, Eisai Inc. “Eisai recognizes the integral role pharmacists play in each patient’s treatment and care, through ongoing monitoring, counseling, and support.” ■