5 Noteworthy Pharmacy Headlines You Can't Miss

Check out the top pharmacy headlines from this week.

Check out the top pharmacy headlines from this week.

5. Pharmacists Neglecting Their Duty to Counsel

Pharmacists have a legal duty to counsel patients, but how many pharmacists today are actually performing this professional obligation?

Medication counseling isn’t an exclusive role for pharmacists. Physicians and other health care professionals are expected to participate, but many of them may be lax because they assume the pharmacist will more thoroughly counsel the patient. Others may just be unaware of the important counseling points.

Not every patient will want counseling, and that’s okay. However, pharmacists can’t neglect their duty and direct patients to sign a log without telling them what they’re signing away.

4. Should Pharmacists Be Permitted to Use Medical Marijuana for Qualifying Conditions?

In recent months, nurses, pharmacists, and physicians have had their licenses suspended due to cannabis use. Although many states have passed laws legalizing cannabis for qualifying medical conditions, medical boards continue to crack down on it because it’s still a federally controlled substance.

To date, 23 states, plus Guam and the District of Columbia, have approved medicinal marijuana use: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Each state that has elected to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes has identified which qualifying conditions can be treated when recommended by the patient’s physician.

Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use include AIDS, Alzheimer’s, agitation, arthritis, cachexia, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, migraines, multiple sclerosis, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, nausea, and pain. States that recognize some or all of these conditions for medical marijuana use are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Notably, California includes a category for other illnesses that may not have been identified but for which medical marijuana provides relief.

US Department of Transportation regulations, which set strict drug-testing guidelines, would likely take precedence over any state laws allowing medical marijuana possession or use. However, it’s unclear whether health care professionals should be held to the same standard as employees who operate machinery or motor vehicles.

3. Pharmacist Job Prospects: Setting the Record Straight

There has been some recent controversy regarding pharmacists’ job prospects, and now it’s time to set the record straight.

Reports of weakening pharmacist employment simply don’t reflect the national picture. According to a recent New York Times analysis, the current unemployment rate for the profession is estimated at 4.1%—a national figure that reflects the experience of job seekers.

In Virginia, 92% of pharmacists are currently employed, and only 1% are involuntarily unemployed, according to the 2015 report of Virginia’s Pharmacist Workforce. On a national scale, demand for Class of 2015 pharmacy school graduates is high.

In a survey of 17 member schools, 95% of the more than 1500 job-seeking graduates who responded to their school’s request for information were employed. This figure is far from the grim portrait of an alleged saturation of the marketplace. In fact, graduates of one pharmacy school in the Southeast were reported to have received 2 job offers on average.

As a profession, we must stop the fearmongering about a possible glut of pharmacists. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on creating new opportunities across both traditional and nontraditional settings where pharmacists—the nation’s only medication use specialists—can use their education and experience to identify, remedy, and prevent medication-related problems, as well as expand access to prevention, wellness, primary care, and chronic care management services.

2. FDA Approves First Prescription Treatment for Dry Eye Signs and Symptoms

The FDA has granted approval to Shire’s lifitegrast ophthalmic 5% solution (Xiidra), a twice-daily eye drop solution indicated for the treatment of the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease in adults. Notably, Xiidra is the first prescription product to receive FDA approval for this purpose.

“Dry eye is a common complaint to eye care professionals, with millions of US adults experiencing the symptoms of this often chronic disease,” stated University of Alabama School of Optometry dean Kelly K. Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, in a press release. “It is critical for eye care professionals to have a dialogue with patients who report symptoms because dry eye can be a progressive ocular surface disease.”

Shire plans to launch Xiidra in the United States in the third quarter of 2016.

1. CVS Will Pay $35 Million to Settle Allegations of Filling Forged Prescriptions

CVS is settling allegations that its pharmacists filled forged prescriptions for controlled substances.

Earlier this year, CVS paid $8 million for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act in its Maryland pharmacies. Now, CVS has agreed to pay $3.5 million for similar allegations at 50 of its stores in Massachusetts.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced in a press release that this was one of the largest settlements ever involving federal allegations of prescription drug diversion in the state. The CVS stores in Massachusetts allegedly filled forged prescriptions, mainly for addictive painkillers, more than 500 times between 2011 and 2014.

In addition to the financial settlement, CVS has entered into a 3-year agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration to make sure its pharmacies work harder to detect and prevent the diversion of controlled substances.