News & Trends

Published Online: Monday, October 10, 2011
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Fred M. Eckel Pharmacy Leadership Award Established

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Eshelman School of Pharmacy and UNC Hospitals have established the Fred M. Eckel Pharmacy Leadership Award in honor of Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS.

Eckel, a faculty member in the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Experiential Education, joined the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 1966 and established the pharmacy residency program at UNC Hospital the following year. Since its establishment, the program has trained more than 250 residents.

Eckel graduated in 1961 from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and completed his MS in hospital pharmacy and residency at The Ohio State University in 1963. He has spoken on pharmacy topics in all 50 states and has held numerous offices in pharmacy organizations at the state and national levels. He currently serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, and executive director of Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International.

Study Shows Sizable Gap in Patient Understanding of Drug Approvals

Many US adults believe that only extremely effective drugs without serious adverse effects receive FDA approval, according to a report published in the September 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, which found that providing explanations to patients underscoring uncertainties about drug benefits may affect their choices.

Approval from the FDA does not necessarily ensure that a drug has a large or important benefit, or that all serious adverse effects of the drug are known, according to the authors, who pointed out that the cholesterol-lowering drugs Zetia and Vytorin reached $1.8 billion in sales in 2007 before a study found no clinical benefit from these drugs, and that the anti-inflammatory medication Vioxx reached $2.4 billion in sales before being withdrawn from the market due to its association with myocardial infarction and stroke.

“The FDA has never required advertisements to acknowledge uncertainties inherent in all new drugs,” wrote study authors Lisa Schwartz, MD, MS, and Steven Woloshin, MD, MS, from the VA Outcomes Group, White River Junction VA Medical Center, White River Junction, Vermont, and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire. “Enthusiasm for Zetia and Vioxx...might have been dampened had consumers known to look for drugs approved based on patient outcomes or drugs with a longer safety record.”

In the study, nearly 3000 adults were questioned on 2 specific scenarios to determine whether educating patients about drug options could influence their views on which drugs are safest and most effective.

In 1 scenario, patients had to choose between a drug that had been shown to lower cholesterol and a drug that lowered the risk of a heart attack. According to the study, only 59% of patients selected the drug that had a clear effect on a negative outcome (heart attacks).

In the other scenario, participants could choose between a newer or older heartburn drug that worked equally well and had the same side effects. Just 34% selected the older heartburn drug. After being given a statement explaining that newer drugs are not always more effective, participants fared better. Seventyone percent selected the cholesterol drug with clear clinical benefit, and 53% picked the older, more closely investigated heartburn drug.

“There are important gaps in what people know about prescription drugs— gaps that undoubtedly contribute to the rapid uptake of drugs despite uncertainty about benefit and harm,” the authors wrote. They recommend that the FDA create a fact sheet clearly stating the benefits and side effects of each drug, and devise brief explanations that can be included in consumer drug advertisements. “Our findings show that simple explanations help consumers make better decisions.”

New Coalition of Pharmacy Owners Targets PBMs

A group of pharmacy owners has formed a coalition to address concerns regarding pharmacy benefit management (PBM), mandatory mailorder prescriptions, and other key issues.

The group, called Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, includes 100 pharmacists and pharmacy owners from 30 states. The coalition aims to expose questionable PBM practices and misinformation about the cost of prescription drugs.

“PBMs have been engaging in a misleading smear campaign against one of America’s most trusted professions, the community pharmacist, for some time now,” said David Marley, an independent pharmacist and member of the coalition, which plans to launch a national campaign in the fall. “We decided it was time to set the record straight on who the real culprits are behind ever-increasing employer drug costs: the PBMs themselves.”

Pharmacists from all community practice settings, including independent and chain stores, are encouraged to get involved by the coalition. For more information, visit TruthRX.org. PT



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