JANUARY 01, 2004


Positions Are Open on USP Committees 

    The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is looking for qualified candidates to become members of its 2005- 2010 Council of Experts (CoE) and Expert Committees, which comprise 52 expert committees in all. USP's CoE and Expert Committees are the decision- making bodies of USP that focus on specific standards, information, and patient safety. Each CoE member serves a 5-year term. Expert Committee members spend an average of 2 to 5 hours a week on USP activities. Standards Expert Committees set up and review drug monographs and general chapters, create and review testing methods, and collaborate on scientific topics that appear in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary. Information Expert Committees address information development, review of off-label-use information, and issues relating to safe medication use. The deadline for submitting applications is November 1, 2004. The CoE will be elected at the USP convention (March 9-13, 2005; Washington, DC). Expert Committee members are elected by the CoE chairs after the close of the USP's Convention. For more information, visit www.usp.org/volunteers/nominate

Group Elevates Role of Pharmacist in Medicare 

    Pharmacists for the Protection of Patient Care (P3C)?a newly formed group of pharmacists and advocates nationwide?has as its goal to advance the quality of patient care by promoting the role of the pharmacist at the federal policy level. The coalition is pleased with the unanimous agreement reached by the federal Medicare Conference Committee whereby Medicare plans must include provisions giving patients access to Medication Therapy Management Services (MTMS) provided by pharmacists. P3C will educate lawmakers and the public on the direct benefits to patients' quality of life that result from pharmacists' more intensive involvement in case management and drug therapies where multiple drugs are prescribed. J. Lyle Bootman, PhD, chairman of P3C, first made headlines about the effects of medication misuse with his landmark study "Drug Morbidity and Mortality: A Cost of Illness Model," published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine (October 1995). All 17 federal legislators assigned to the Medicare Conference Committee agreed in September 2003 that the new Medicare plans must include programs that provide MTMS by pharmacy providers for use by Medicare patients who have multiple chronic conditions, use multiple medications, and/or are likely to have high drug costs. Also, the agreement recognizes that MTMS programs ensure the correct use of drugs, as well as the risk of medication misuse. Furthermore, the committee members agreed that Medicare plans must take into account MTMS initiatives when determining reimbursements for pharmacists. 

Competition Promotes Pharmacy Ownership 

    The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) has established the NCPA Pruitt-Schutte Student Business Plan Competition to heighten awareness about independent community pharmacy ownership. The purpose of the competition is to inspire pharmacy students to create the blueprint necessary for purchasing an existing independent community pharmacy or to start a new pharmacy. As the first national competition of its kind in the pharmacy profession, the competition is named in honor of 2 champions of the independent pharmacy: Neil Pruitt, Sr., who died earlier this year, and H. Joseph Schutte, who currently serves on the NCPA's Foundation Board of Trustees. The competition is supported by contributions from the Pruitt family, the Schutte family, and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. "Many pharmacy students are entrepreneurs and can use their ambition to build a pharmacy practice setting that allows them to daily make a difference in the lives of patients and their families, while making a very good living," Schutte said. Registered Pharmacist Bruce Roberts, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer, concurs. "One of the goals of NCPA is to promote independent pharmacy ownership as a means to a more satisfying career." The competition is slated to begin in the spring semester of 2004. A Web page posted on the NCPA Web site ( www.ncpanet.org ) will have all the application materials and a sample business plan. Interested students must identify a "sponsor/mentor" to help them in their business plan development. The mentor can be an NCPA faculty liaison, another faculty member, or a local entrepreneur in the community. During the spring semester, students will develop their chapter's business plan and submit their entry to the NCPA. The winners will be announced at the annual NCPA convention. 

Tallying of Medication Errors Is Increasing 

    The number of medication errors is on the rise, according to data collected by MEDMARX, the national reporting database operated by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). The fourth annual report, "Summary of Information Submitted to MEDMARX in the Year 2002: The Quest for Quality," provides a detailed analysis of 192,477 medication errors voluntarily reported by 482 hospitals and health care facilities nationwide. A significant finding is that more than one third of the medication errors reaching the patient involved seniors. "As the senior population continues to increase, USP is calling for hospitals to focus on reducing medication errors among seniors. Seniors and their families need to become more involved in their care," said Diane Cousins, RPh, vice president of the Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety at USP. Regarding the senior population, the report states: 

? 55% of fatal hospital medication errors reported involved seniors 

? When medication errors caused harm to seniors, 9.6% were prescribing errors 

? When harm occurred, the wrong route (7%)?such as a tube feeding given intravenously?and the wrong administration technique (6.5%)?such as not diluting concentrated medications?were the second and third most common errors among patients >65 years of age 

? Omission errors (43%), improper dose/quantity errors (18%), and unauthorized drug errors (11%) were the most frequent kinds of medication errors among seniors 

    Of the 192,477 errors, the majority were corrected before harming the patient. Yet, 3213 mistakes (1.7%) did result in patient injury, compared with 2.4% in 2001. The breakdown of this total includes 514 errors requiring hospitalization, 47 requiring life-sustaining interventions, and 20 (<1%) fatal. The most common categories of drugs involved in errors were opioid analgesics, sedatives/hypnotics, and anticonvulsants. The most severe injuries were the result of high-alert medications, including insulin, heparin, and morphine, according to the report. Also, of the 14 types of errors, the top 5 were missing 1 or more doses, giving improper dose/quantity, making a prescribing error, using an incorrect drug, and administering a drug at the wrong time.

harmacy School Staff Develops Technology to Detect Fake Drugs 

    Two faculty members at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy have developed Near- Infrared Spectroscopy as a means to help combat the rise of drug-counterfeiting activities. The school has submitted the invention to the FDA's Counterfeit Drug Task Force, which is looking at modern technologies that will make it more difficult to distribute fake drugs within the United States. The application works by using existing technology of infrared light to scan pills, tablets, or capsules. While being scanned, each medication (and even each batch) will reflect infrared light in a manner unique to the drug's (or batch's) individual composition, giving a 1-of-a-kind pattern of light, or "fingerprint." Then, each fingerprint is recorded and stored in a database. When a suspect drug is scanned, the resulting fingerprint will be crosschecked with the database. If the fingerprint does not exactly match, agencies such as the FDA, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, and pharmacists will be alerted within seconds that the drug is counterfeit. 

Albertsons Implements Network Solution in Its Stores 

    Xperex Corp recently completed the installation of an innovative self-service network in 2300 Albertsons food stores and drugstores across 31 states. Albertsons selected the San Francisco-based Xperex to partner with Unicru, a leading workforce acquisition solutions company to deliver the most innovative automated system for increasing the Albertsons pool of qualified job candidates for specific job opportunities. Xperex has been able to increase the number of qualified job applicants and provide Albertsons with a channel for educating applicants about the company's mission and open positions by means of a video-enhanced self-service consumer interface, which engages potential job candidates in the application experience; wireless network connectivity to all Albertsons stores; and a suite of Web-accessible applications for tracking data and managing the network itself. "One of our 5 strategic imperatives is to improve our business performance through the focused application of technology," said Bob Dunst, Albertsons' executive vice president and chief technology officer. "Not only will the Xperex solution provide us with a turnkey network for the delivery of the Unicru workforce acquisition system; it offers a standardized self-service platform that we can further leverage throughout our stores to fulfill the Albertsons' brand of promise of working hard to make life easier for our customers and associates."  PT