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Published Online: Wednesday, October 1, 2008   [ Request Print ]

Is All Prescription Packaging Created Equal?

A new study comparing 8 leading prescription packaging brands revealed that differences exist between prescription packages that could impact patient safety and the integrity of the prescription drugs that are contained in them. The study, conducted by Pharmacy Healthcare Solutions Inc (PHSI), analyzed prescription vials in 3 categories: child-resistance, moisture permeation, and light transmission. The partial panel study consisted of a pass or fail comparison to the standards set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for Child-Resistance as well as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) for Moisture Vapor Permeation and Light Transmission. A majority of the manufacturers' vials tested did not pass all 3 test criteria at the highest level.

"Pharmacists concerned about their packaging should request documentation from the prescription packaging manufacturer on the test results for child-resistant protocol, moisture permeation, and light transmission," according to Donald Dietz, RPh, vice president at PHSI. "The tests should show that the package meets or exceeds all testing standards. The selection of a prescription package that meets CPSC and USP standards should be important for the dispensing pharmacist."


NY Allows Pharmacists to Give Flu Shots

New York is joining with other states to allow pharmacists to administer flu and pneumonia shots. Maine is the only state where pharmacists currently cannot immunize.

Earlier this month Democratic Gov David A. Paterson signed the legislation. Starting December 4, NY pharmacists who complete state training and certification will be allowed to give shots with a prescription. The certification will cost $100 every 3 years and require training. Supporters of the bill expect the legislation to increase the number of vaccinations statewide. The city health department projects that passage of the bill could increase the number of seniors who get the shots by 50,000 or more. State records indicate 20,303 state-licensed pharmacists at the start of this year, with 16,219 listing primary mailing addresses in New York.

"Allowing pharmacists to immunize would increase access to vaccinations, as pharmacies are open long hours, on weekends, and most holidays," said Sen Charles J. Fuschillo Jr, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the bill.


"Speak Up" About Pain

Pain is one of the main reasons that Americans seek medical treatment. Untreated pain can have serious effects- slowed recovery times, poor quality of life, and higher health care costs.

In response, The Joint Commission is launching a national campaign to help patients work with their health care providers to better manage their pain. "Effective pain management is a crucial component of good health care, and treating pain is the responsibility of all caregivers," notes Mark Chassin, MD, MPP, MPH, president of The Joint Commission.

"What You Should Know About Pain Management" offers advice for patients to help them describe their pain to clinicians; provides information on medications and nonpharmacologic options for pain relief; addresses some of the fears patients may have about pain medications, such as addiction and developing tolerance; and discusses some of the side effects patients may expect from pain medicines. The reproducible brochure is available at www.jointcommis sion.org/PatientSafety/SpeakUp/.

The pain campaign is part of The Joint Commission's "Speak Up" initiative, aimed at helping patients become more informed and involved in their health care:

  • Speak up if you have questions or concerns
  • Pay attention and make sure you are getting the right treatments
  • Educate yourself
  • Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate
  • Know what medications you take and why you take them
  • Use accredited health care facilities, with state-of-the-art quality and safety standards
  • Participate in all decisions about your treatment

Pharmacies Significantly Impact Economy

The 2008 Chain Pharmacy Industry Profile, released annually by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), not only showcases the value of pharmacies as a frontline health care provider, but as an industry with a significant impact on the nation's economy.

Retail stores with pharmacies?including chain and traditional independent drugstores, supermarkets, and mass merchandisers?have a total annual economic impact of $2.42 trillion or approximately 17% of the gross domestic product, according to the 2007 data.

The impact reaches well beyond these retailers' $827 billion in annual sales. Every $1 spent in these stores creates a ripple effect of $2.93 throughout other segments of the economy, including manufacturing, information technology, construction, real estate, and transportation. The 39,000 chain pharmacies throughout the country dispensed >2.5 billion prescriptions in 2007, about 72% of the total filled in the United States. Overall, the retail prescription market reached nearly $260 billion in 2007.

"The average distance to the nearest pharmacy is 1.86 miles, making pharmacies one of the most convenient resources for health care, as well as everyday household needs," said NACDS President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE. "The Industry Profile is an essential reference for quantifying and demonstrating the extraordinary impact of pharmacies in America. It is a critical resource in communicating to lawmakers and decision makers that pharmacies are engaged and at the table in ensuring that patients have access to affordable, quality health care, and that pharmacists are on the frontlines of providing many health care services."


Congress Passes Online Pharmacy Bill

The House of Representatives and the Senate recently passed the "Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008" (HR 6353), with an amendment that draws a clear distinction between the treatment of rogue Web sites and legitimate, licensed pharmacies, a move praised by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

"It is absolutely essential that Congress and the administration take steps to curtail the selling of controlled substances online by 'rogue' Internet sites that masquerade as legitimate pharmacies," said NACDS President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE.

"NACDS members operate legitimate, state-licensed pharmacies, many of which have an associated and branded Internet Web site," he continued, commending both chambers for recognizing these legitimate operations in the legislation. At press time, the bill was awaiting the president's signature.


Honoring Pharmacists

October has been designated American Pharmacists Month, with the theme "Know Your Medicine, Know Your Pharmacist." The campaign will urge individuals to partner with their pharmacist to optimize drug therapy. The month-long celebration is the perfect opportunity for pharmacists to take special note of the great strides that have been made in the pharmacy profession and the positive impact they have on patients.

The American Pharmacists Association Web site offers a variety of tools to help pharmacists bring more awareness about their vital role as health care providers to the patients they serve.

The Web site also features the American Pharmacists Month Planning Guide to help pharmacists plan promotions during the month of October and throughout the year.

Rep Marion Barry (D, AR) recently introduced House Resolution 1437 that would designate October as American Pharmacists Month. The Resolution celebrates the many contributions made by pharmacists in all practice settings toward providing safe, affordable, and beneficial medication therapy management services to patients.


Scholarships Help CF Students

Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc recently awarded scholarships totaling $100,000 to 40 students living with cystic fibrosis (CF) through its SolvayCARES Scholarship program. Each student has received a 1-year award of $2500 to help finance postsecondary education.

This year's SolvayCARES Scholarship program offers a new opportunity with the launch of the Thriving Student Achiever award. The winner will earn a total of $10,000 in scholarship funding.

For 16 years, the pharmaceutical company has awarded scholarships to high-achieving students with CF to encourage their pursuit of educational goals. Recipients can use the scholarship award for postsecondary study of any kind through an accredited program; winners' courses of study can range from vocational activity to undergraduate degrees to doctoral work.

The SolvayCARES program was created to address the specific needs of patients with CF by providing support in a variety of formats throughout their lives as patients' needs evolve with age. For more information on the scholarship program, visit www.solvaycaresscholarship.com.


Cocaine, Meth Use Down, but Rx Abuse Up

Cocaine and methamphetamine use among young adults has dropped significantly over the past year, but abuse of prescription drugs has risen, according to the nation's largest substance abuse assessment, the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The survey found a significant decline among youth aged 12 to 17 in overall use across nearly every type of illicit drug, from 11.6% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2007. It also found that the level of alcohol use dropped for this age group from 17.6% to 15.9% over that same time period, and smoking for this cohort dropped from 13% to 9.8%.

Despite many positive trends, the most recent NSDUH also reveals some less encouraging data. Current illicit drug abuse among those aged 55 to 59 more than doubled, to 4.1% in 2007, confirming concerns that baby boomers have continued their higher levels of substance abuse as they age. Among young adults aged 18 to 25, the level of current, nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers has risen 12% (to 4.6% in 2007).

"Our efforts against methamphetamine, cocaine, and other illegal drugs are working," said John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy. "But when it comes to prescription drugs, we cannot afford to relive the painful experiences we've had with illegal drugs. We must act quickly to increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, decrease the illegal diversion of these products, and shore up safer practices for their prescription and distribution."


Vaccine Rates High for Toddlers, Says CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) report on vaccination rates for children ages 1? through 3 indicates that toddlers received the recommended vaccinations against childhood diseases at record levels in 2007.

The CDC said that >77% of children in this age group received the full recommended series of vaccines. The report said 90% of children got all but 1 of the 6 individual vaccines in the series. The fourth dose of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis or whooping cough vaccine was only received by 84.5% of toddlers.

"The ongoing success of our nation's immunization program is largely dependent on the trust that parents put in the safety of vaccines and those caregivers who administer them," said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH.

The report was issued the day after another study came out finding no association between autism and the vaccine to protect against measles, mumps, and rubella.


TPA Wants to Improve Pharmacy Profession

The Pharmacy Alliance (TPA), a newly formed grassroots organization, wants to see an end to the deterioration of the pharmacy profession.

"TPA exists to create conditions that foster dignity, self-respect, and integrity in the personal and professional lives of all pharmacy practitioners," said the organization's Web site. The alliance is born from "a discomfort that has gotten progressively worse over the last 3 decades. We believe there is a need for an organization to deal with the problems of the community pharmacy environment."

The group, which includes chain, independent, health-system pharmacists, technicians, and students, has adopted 14 core principles. Its principles address compensation, meal breaks, more emphasis on the role of pharmacists as counselors, better operation and staffing of drive-thru areas, and management of pharmacy professionals by pharmacists and not by nonpharmacist managers. For more information, visit www.thepharmacyalliance.com.


ND Mulls Change in Pharmacy Law

The North Dakota Legislature's Industry, Business, and Labor Committee is looking at whether a change is needed in the state's 45-year-old pharmacy ownership law requiring that most pharmacies be majority-owned by pharmacists. North Dakota is the only state with such a requirement.

The issue has stirred controversy in the Sioux State. Independent pharmacies are worried that eliminating the requirement would mean a drop in business and small-town store closures, cutting off access to prescription drugs for rural residents. Others, such as North Dakotans for Affordable Healthcare, say the law stifles competition among pharmacies and creates a government-protected system that drives up drug costs.

The committee heard from several stakeholders at an August hearing on the issue, including the State Board of Pharmacy, the North Dakota Pharmaceutical Association, and the North Dakota Healthcare Association, but it has not yet decided whether a change in the law is needed.

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