News Capsules

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Pain Management Teams Need Pharmacists

Pharmacists with their skills and knowledgeshould be involved in hospital painmanagement and palliative care. Themodel for a pharmacist who specializesin pain management has not taken offas quickly as health experts in the fieldwould like.

Pain management involves psychosocial,substance abuse, regulatory,and diversion/abuse issues, making it avery complex pharmacy specialization,according to experts. Although everypharmacist should have a basic knowledgeabout pain medicine, there also is aneed for pharmacists who are specialistsin pain medicine, commented VirginiaGhafoor, PharmD, a clinical pharmacyspecialist in pain management at theUniversity of Minnesota Medical Center,Fairview (Minneapolis, MN).

The demand for pharmacists to startpain services is increasing among hospitals,and the pharmacist's role in pain servicesneeds to grow, but there also needsto be more resources allocated to trainpharmacists in this practice, she said.Experts cited several reasons why painmanagement should include pharmacyinput:

  • Physicians need assistance. Physicianson rounds might decide to makechanges to a patient's opioid use, andif they do, the pharmacist is the individualthey might call for assistance.
  • Hospitals are improving palliativecare services. Many hospitals arestarting to add or enhance their palliativecare services.
  • Pharmacists can help with patientscreening and monitoring. It is beneficialto have a pharmacist on board,particularly in the more complicatedpain medicine cases.

Women and Minorities Bear Brunt of STDs

Chlamydia and gonorrhea continue tobe the most commonly reported infectiousdiseases in the nation, accordingto an annual report from the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention (CDC).Women bear a disproportionate burdenof the long-term health consequences ofsexually transmitted diseases (STDs), theCDC reports, and black women 15 to 19years of age account for the highest ratesof both chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Syphilis, a disease close to being eliminatedless than a decade ago, has increasedeach year since 2000 and remainsa serious threat to the health ofhomosexual and bisexual men, the CDCnotes. The agency estimates that overall,almost 19 million new sexually transmittedinfections occur each year. In additionto the threat of infertility, increased risk ofHIV, and other health risks, the CDC estimatesthat STDs cost the US health caresystem as much as $15.3 billion annually.

The full report, Sexually TransmittedDisease Surveillance, 2007, is available atwww.cdc.gov/std/stats07.

Michigan Becomes 13th Medical Marijuana State

Michigan voters have approved Proposal1 (Prop 1), a measure that will allowseriously ill patients to register to usemarijuana according to their doctor'srecommendation, making it the firststate in the Midwest to enact a modernmedical marijuana law, according to theMarijuana Policy Project.

The group reports that Prop 1 received63% of the vote across the state andmajority support in each of the state's 83counties. The initiative went into effectDecember 4, 2008, 10 days after theelection result was certified. The state'sDepartment of Community Health has120 days after that date to issue rules andbegin letting qualifying patients apply formedical marijuana identification cards.Patients will be allowed to possess up to2? oz of marijuana without facing arrestand grow up to 12 plants in an enclosed,locked facility or designate a caregiver todo so for them. Caregivers will be allowedto assist no more than 5 patients.

Michigan's Coalition for CompassionateCare (MCCC) drafted the measure, coordinatedthe signature drive, and ran thecampaign for enactment. The full law canbe accessed at MCCC's Web site, stoparrestingpatients.org/initiative.

New Reference Book on Patient Symptoms

Pharmacists looking for a handy reference guide to help patients understand their symptoms maywant to check out Merck's first-ever reference book on the subject, The Merck Manual of PatientSymptoms. 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—areaddressed in detail. Entries for each symptom begin with a list of possible causes, calling out wheneverpossible the ones that are more common, more dangerous, or both, followed by suggestivefindings. "Red flags" highlight indications of serious health conditions, and treatment guidelinescover common therapies, drugs, and dosages for symptom relief. "The book will make it easier tosort through patients' varied sensations and physical findings and create an effective diagnosticplan," noted Editor Robert Porter, MD.

The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms complements The Merck Manual of Diagnosis andTherapy, first published in 1899 and now translated into 17 languages. For more information, visitwww.merckbooks.com.

IRS Delays Debit Card Restrictions in Pharmacies

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

The 6-month delay is to allow more time for compliancewith the new rules that add retail pharmacies tothe list of merchants required to have an IRS-approvedpoint-of-sale system in place in order to accept ahealth care debit card. Those rules exclude an exceptionenabling pharmacies that primarily sell health careitems to accept the card as long as they met certain IRSrequirements.

Wellness Program Extends Walgreens Offerings

Walgreens newly launched "CompleteCare and Well-Being" wellness program isa new and unique approach to health carethat brings together pharmacy, health, andwellness under a single program, with all prices transparent to the employer.

The program is designed to reduce health care and prescription costs for employersacross the country. Complete Care and Well-Being represents a fundamental changeto 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, andpharmacies with a discount prescription drug offering that is available nationally to acompany's employees, dependents, and retirees no matter where they live or work.

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

Fougera Funds New NACDS Scholarship

In recognition of160 years in business,Fougera hasdonated $160,000to the NationalAssociationofChain Drug Stores(NACDS) Foundationto establishthe EdmondFougera ScholarshipFund. The fund will awardscholarshipseach year to exceptional pharmacystudents who have demonstratedstrongleadershipand a commitment to communitypharmacy.

Edmond Fougera started with one pharmacyin New York in 1849. In the 1960s,Fougera entered the generics market, andtoday is the US leader in the development,manufacture, and commercialization ofmultisource dermatology products.

"Fougera was founded by a pharmacistand continues to share the NACDSFoundation's dedication to further theprofession of pharmacists," said DavidKlaum, senior vice president and generalmanager of Fougera.

Ohio Law to Regulate Pharmacy Technicians

Ohio Gov Ted Strickland has signed intolaw a measure requiring that pharmacytechnicians be at least 18 years ofage, register with the State Board ofPharmacy, and pass a Board-approvedcompetency exam.

Support for the measure, known as"Emily's Law," had been building since2-year-old Ohio resident Emily Jerry diedas a result of a medication error causedby a pharmacy technician who compoundeda base saline solution at 20times the standard concentration of sodiumchloride.

The child's mother worked with theNational Pharmacy Technician Associationto help get a bill introducedin the Ohio State Senate last spring.Pharmacy technicians currently practicingin Ohio have 210 days from the law'seffective date to become in compliancewith the regulations.

In neighboring Kentucky, pharmacytechnicians are required to register withthe state's Board of Pharmacy by April1, 2009. The process can be completedonline. For more information, go to pharmacy.ky.gov.