News Capsules

FEBRUARY 01, 2009

Pain Management Teams Need Pharmacists

Pharmacists with their skills and knowledge should be involved in hospital pain management and palliative care. The model for a pharmacist who specializes in pain management has not taken off as quickly as health experts in the field would like.

Pain management involves psychosocial, substance abuse, regulatory, and diversion/abuse issues, making it a very complex pharmacy specialization, according to experts. Although every pharmacist should have a basic knowledge about pain medicine, there also is a need for pharmacists who are specialists in pain medicine, commented Virginia Ghafoor, PharmD, a clinical pharmacy specialist in pain management at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview (Minneapolis, MN).

The demand for pharmacists to start pain services is increasing among hospitals, and the pharmacist's role in pain services needs to grow, but there also needs to be more resources allocated to train pharmacists in this practice, she said. Experts cited several reasons why pain management should include pharmacy input:

  • Physicians need assistance. Physicians on rounds might decide to make changes to a patient's opioid use, and if they do, the pharmacist is the individual they might call for assistance.
  • Hospitals are improving palliative care services. Many hospitals are starting to add or enhance their palliative care services.
  • Pharmacists can help with patient screening and monitoring. It is beneficial to have a pharmacist on board, particularly in the more complicated pain medicine cases.

Women and Minorities Bear Brunt of STDs

Chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to be the most commonly reported infectious diseases in the nation, according to an annual report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women bear a disproportionate burden of the long-term health consequences of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the CDC reports, and black women 15 to 19 years of age account for the highest rates of both chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Syphilis, a disease close to being eliminated less than a decade ago, has increased each year since 2000 and remains a serious threat to the health of homosexual and bisexual men, the CDC notes. The agency estimates that overall, almost 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur each year. In addition to the threat of infertility, increased risk of HIV, and other health risks, the CDC estimates that STDs cost the US health care system as much as $15.3 billion annually.

The full report, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2007, is available at

Michigan Becomes 13th Medical Marijuana State

Michigan voters have approved Proposal 1 (Prop 1), a measure that will allow seriously ill patients to register to use marijuana according to their doctor's recommendation, making it the first state in the Midwest to enact a modern medical marijuana law, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

The group reports that Prop 1 received 63% of the vote across the state and majority support in each of the state's 83 counties. The initiative went into effect December 4, 2008, 10 days after the election result was certified. The state's Department of Community Health has 120 days after that date to issue rules and begin letting qualifying patients apply for medical marijuana identification cards. Patients will be allowed to possess up to 2? oz of marijuana without facing arrest and grow up to 12 plants in an enclosed, locked facility or designate a caregiver to do so for them. Caregivers will be allowed to assist no more than 5 patients.

Michigan's Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC) drafted the measure, coordinated the signature drive, and ran the campaign for enactment. The full law can be accessed at MCCC's Web site,

New Reference Book on Patient Symptoms

Pharmacists looking for a handy reference guide to help patients understand their symptoms may want to check out Merck's first-ever reference book on the subject, The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms. The paperback is designed to assist pharmacists, nurses, medical students, residents, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in their growing role on the front line of patient care.

Organized alphabetically, 88 common symptoms—from abdominal pain to wheezing—are addressed in detail. Entries for each symptom begin with a list of possible causes, calling out whenever possible the ones that are more common, more dangerous, or both, followed by suggestive findings. "Red flags" highlight indications of serious health conditions, and treatment guidelines cover common therapies, drugs, and dosages for symptom relief. "The book will make it easier to sort through patients' varied sensations and physical findings and create an effective diagnostic plan," noted Editor Robert Porter, MD.

The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms complements The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, first published in 1899 and now translated into 17 languages. For more information, visit

IRS Delays Debit Card Restrictions in Pharmacies

New health care debit card guidelines from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that would have taken effect this month have been delayed until June 1, 2009.

The 6-month delay is to allow more time for compliance with the new rules that add retail pharmacies to the list of merchants required to have an IRS-approved point-of-sale system in place in order to accept a health care debit card. Those rules exclude an exception enabling pharmacies that primarily sell health care items to accept the card as long as they met certain IRS requirements.

Wellness Program Extends Walgreens Offerings

Walgreens newly launched "Complete Care and Well-Being" wellness program is a new and unique approach to health care that brings together pharmacy, health, and wellness under a single program, with all prices transparent to the employer.

The program is designed to reduce health care and prescription costs for employers across the country. Complete Care and Well-Being represents a fundamental change to the delivery of health care services for employers, their employees, dependents, and retirees.

The program is offered through Walgreens subsidiary Take Care Health Systems. Complete Care and Well-Being combines worksite health centers, in-store clinics, and pharmacies with a discount prescription drug offering that is available nationally to a company's employees, dependents, and retirees no matter where they live or work.

Complete Care and Well-Being also extends to health insurers and managed care organizations. "Complete Care and Well-Being can be a single-source offering, using Walgreens pharmacy administration capabilities, or can be integrated with an existing pharmacy and health care benefit provider," said Walgreens President Greg Wasson. "The prescription pricing component allows companies that use a pharmacy benefit manager to continue doing so while taking advantage of all that we can offer. Insurers and managed care organizations can also offer more value in their own networks by capitalizing on the depth of our program and its nationwide availability of services."

Fougera Funds New NACDS Scholarship

In recognition of 160 years in business, Fougera has donated $160,000 to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation to establish the Edmond Fougera Scholarship Fund. The fund will award scholarships each year to exceptional pharmacy students who have demonstrated strong leadership and a commitment to community pharmacy.

Edmond Fougera started with one pharmacy in New York in 1849. In the 1960s, Fougera entered the generics market, and today is the US leader in the development, manufacture, and commercialization of multisource dermatology products.

"Fougera was founded by a pharmacist and continues to share the NACDS Foundation's dedication to further the profession of pharmacists," said David Klaum, senior vice president and general manager of Fougera.

Ohio Law to Regulate Pharmacy Technicians

Ohio Gov Ted Strickland has signed into law a measure requiring that pharmacy technicians be at least 18 years of age, register with the State Board of Pharmacy, and pass a Board-approved competency exam.

Support for the measure, known as "Emily's Law," had been building since 2-year-old Ohio resident Emily Jerry died as a result of a medication error caused by a pharmacy technician who compounded a base saline solution at 20 times the standard concentration of sodium chloride.

The child's mother worked with the National Pharmacy Technician Association to help get a bill introduced in the Ohio State Senate last spring. Pharmacy technicians currently practicing in Ohio have 210 days from the law's effective date to become in compliance with the regulations.

In neighboring Kentucky, pharmacy technicians are required to register with the state's Board of Pharmacy by April 1, 2009. The process can be completed online. For more information, go to

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