Pharmacy Times

News Capsules


New Law Makes it Okay in OK to Give Flu Shots Without Rx

A new Oklahoma law is making it easier for residents to keep themselves flu-free by getting vaccinated. As of November 1, pharmacists throughout the state who are certified to administer flu immunizations can do so without a patient-specific prescription.

The change makes Oklahoma the 15th state in the nation that does not require prescriptions for vaccinations, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. Some opposed to requiring prescriptions for flu shots are saying that it places a barrier between patients and the vaccination—one that many patients may not bother trying to surmount by spending the time and money to visit their doctors in order to obtain the needed prescription.

Whether with or without prescriptions, pharmacists in all 50 states are now permitted by law to provide vaccinations. Maine last month became the final state to pass a law that allows its pharmacists to administer vaccinations upon completing training and gaining certification. Although patients in the state are not required to get a prescription to receive the flu vaccination, prescriptions are necessary to receive other types of vaccines.   

AG Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines

The US Attorney General recently announced formal guidelines for states that have authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The guidelines make clear that federal law enforcement re-sources will not be focused on legitimate use by patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers, but rather on “drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Fourteen states have enacted laws in some form authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Push on for H1N1 Vaccination, as Officials Warn Against Fake Flu Meds

The H1N1 virus continues to spread across all 50 states and shows no signs of slowing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and health officials are urging Americans to get vaccinated as soon as supplies are available.

Health officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the CDC have launched new tracking systems designed to pick up any adverse reactions to the flu vaccine. Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, director of the HHS National Vaccine Program Office, said these efforts are aimed at “making sure the public has as much confidence in the medical system as we do.”

The tracking methods range from increased staffing at the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, to a new nationwide study designed to effectively monitor vaccine recipients for up to 6 weeks postvaccination. The Real Time Immunization Monitoring System will use a Web-based system developed at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The CDC, along with 6 academic medical centers, will provide clinical evaluations of any serious adverse events.

In mid-October, consumers were warned about fraudulent H1N1 influenza products sold online that claim to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat, or cure the virus. Since late spring, the FDA has identified and warned more than 75 Web sites to stop the sale of more than 135 products with fraudulent H1N1 influenza virus claims. Two antiviral drugs have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of H1N1—Tamiflu (oseltamvir phosphate) and Relenza (zanamivir). In addition to their approved label, these drugs also have the Emergency Use Authorizations that describe specific authorized uses during a public health emergency.

Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, in early October announced several new resources available at www.flu.gov, the federal government’s flu information Web site. Consumers can access a new H1N1 flu self-evaluation guide for adults aged 18 and older and one-page “Flu Essentials” information sheets, as well as a new section that provides the most accurate and up-to-date information on H1N1.

Global Pharmaceutical Market Predicted to Expand

The global pharmaceutical market is expected to grow in the next few years, thanks to stronger near-term growth in the US market, according to IMS Health. In 2010, the global pharmaceutical market is predicted to increase by 4% to 6%, exceeding $825 billion. The IMS annual indicator of market dynamics, which considers the impact of the global macroeconomy, the changing mix of innovative and mature products, and the rising influence of health care access and funding on market demand, predicts global pharmaceutical market sales to grow at a 4% to 7% compound annual growth rate through 2013—total value is expected to top out at more than $975 billion by 2013. Pharmacy chains have had a large impact in this projected growth by knowing their patients and accurately predicting patient demand— due to tighter management of inventory levels, purchasing volatility has been higher than in previous years.

Murray Aitken, senior vice president, Healthcare Insight, IMS, explained the forecast by stating, “Overall, market growth is expected to remain at historically low levels, but stronger-thanexpected demand is lifting both our short- and longer-term forecasts. […] In the US, pricing flexibility and inventory management actions are contributing to much higher growth than anticipated earlier this year, and are the main reasons for the upward adjustment to our 5-year forecast.” 

Digest Offers Inside Look at Independent Pharmacy

Data from the National Community Pharmacists Association’s (NCPA) newly released 2009 NCPA Digest reveal that independent community pharmacy represented an $88 billion marketplace in 2008, a rise of 5% over the previous year. The average independent community pharmacy location dispensed 62,379 prescriptions—about 200 prescriptions a day—and 93% of their sales derived from prescription drugs. Total sales for the average community pharmacy grew by 7.6%.

“Community pharmacies have shown a remarkable resiliency,” noted Bruce T. Roberts, RPh, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer. Between December 2007 and December 2008, 1225 new community pharmacies opened their doors, and more than 270,000 workers were employed in 22,728 independent pharmacies. Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescriptions grew from a total of 39% to 44% of all prescriptions filled in the last year.

The sector’s pharmacists continue to offer niche products and patient services to compete in today’s marketplace: nutrition services were offered by 89%; 81% provided home delivery; and 81% also offered patient charge accounts. Independents also offered an array of disease state management services: 70% performed blood pressure monitoring; 47% offered diabetes training; and 43% gave immunizations.

“The competition is stiff and far from level, but there is still a marketplace for the type of personalized care community pharmacies offer,” said Holly Whitcomb Henry, RPh, NCPA president and Seattle, Washington, pharmacy owner.

The digest has been published for 75 years and provides a comprehensive portrait of the financial state of independent pharmacies from the previous calendar year. For more information, visit www.ncpanet.org. 

New Online Immunization Toolkit Aims to Up Vaccination Rates

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists introduced a new online tool, www.YouCanStopTheFlu.com, especially created for pharmacists to improve influenza immunization rates among health care workers. The plan has been put in place to improve seasonal influenza immunization rates.

Annual influenza immunization is recommended for health care workers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to minimize the risk of infection among patients and other workers; however, compliance rates average 36% to 42% annually. The new initiative, supported by a grant from CSL Biotherapies, was developed by a panel of immunization experts and features updates from the CDC and information about the latest immunization trends and shortages, as well as practical tools pharmacists can use to lead an immunization campaign at their own health system. The goal for 2010 is to reach an immunization rate of 60% or higher among health care workers.