News Capsules

Pharmacy TimesJuly 2009
Volume 75
Issue 7

Road Tour Focuses on Sun Safety

One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. To help Americans minimize that risk, the foundation is partnering with Rite Aid this summer in a multifaceted campaign to raise awareness and offer free information on the importance of smart skin care practices.

The campaign includes the second annual Road to Healthy Skin Tour to provide early detection services at 80 stops across the country where local board- certified dermatologists are conducting free full-body skin cancer screenings. The 2008 tour attracted approximately 7000 visitors over 17,650 miles traveled.

Also available in Rite Aid stores and online is a 12-page skin care guide containing information from The Skin Cancer Foundation on being proactive in preventing skin cancer, guidelines on how to use and choose sunscreen, and tips to avoid burning. The guide includes the signs of skin cancer, how diabetes affects the skin, how to use sunscreens and cosmetics together, among other information. An interactive body map, available at, can help patients track skin changes on a regular basis.

Meth Makers May Send Allergy Sufferers to Doctor

Even those who have never touched methamphetamines may end up seeking health care because of it, if a bill passed by the California Senate becomes law. As a weapon in the war against the drug, California lawmakers are considering requiring prescriptions for OTC medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as cold and allergy medications, which is used to manufacture meth.

The proposed legislation is modeled after an Oregon law passed in 2006, which has seen success there. A similar bill is up for adoption in Missouri, where meth lab busts have increased despite previous measures to curb pseudoephedrine sales. Such laws seek to thwart the practice known as "smurfing," which involves meth makers hiring people to purchase the maximum allowed amount of pseudoephedrine products at as many pharmacies as possible at a given time.

Disease Management Growth a Boon for Retail Pharmacies As the market for disease management services continues to grow, opportunities abound for retail pharmacies to take advantage of the trend to do the same. According to a recent analysis from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, retail pharmacies are poised to glean benefits from the increasing prevalence of disease management services.

The paper, Disease Management and Retail Pharmacies: A Convergence Opportunity, shows how retail pharmacies are in a prime position to offer disease management services both effectively and profitably. Many retail pharmacies are already equipped with the necessary tools-convenient locations, 24-hour operations, prescription fulfillment services, consumer marketing, brand positioning, retail clinics, and health and personal care products, said Deloitte.

In the United States, the market for disease management services is slated to hit the $30-billion mark by 2013, Deloitte notes, thanks to the country's aging population, increased rate of chronic diseases, more Medicare and Medicaid enrollees, and the ongoing pressure to reign in health care costs.

Health Care Debate Heats Up; Pharmacists Are Heard

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) has begun a campaign aimed at getting thousands of pharmacy advocates involved in engaging with elected officials on health care reform. "The timing of the health care reform debate could not afford a better opportunity for pharmacy to urge lawmakers to include pro-patient, pro-pharmacy policies in these discussions," said Steven C. Anderson, NACDS president and chief executive officer.

NACDS took advantage of the opportunity to kick off its campaign last month at its RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill. More than 150 pharmacy advocates from 30 states met with lawmakers during the event. Furthering their efforts, NACDS is reaching out to more than 20,000 individuals with a vested interest in pharmacy to get them involved in the reform discussions.

Among NACDS' objectives are getting Congress to include medication therapy management provisions in order to cut health care costs, as well as seeking better Medicaid reimbursement to pharmacies.

FDA Recalls Intranasal Cold Products

The FDA is advising patients not to use Zicam's intranasal cold remedy zinc products, following reports the agency received of loss of smell associated with their use. The products covered in the FDA advisory are Zicam's Cold Remedy Nasal Gel and Cold Remedy Nasal Swabs.

Matrixx, makers of Zicam, voluntarily recalled the 2 products in response to the FDA's advisory and is suggesting they be discarded or returned for a full refund or exchange for an oral cold remedy product. For more information, visit or call 877-942-2626.

In commenting on the FDA action, Matrixx Acting President William J. Hemelt noted that more than 35 million units (1 billion doses) have been purchased since the first product was launched in 1999. The company is seeking a meeting with the FDA to discuss its scientific data. "Had we had the opportunity to sit down with the FDA beforehand, we are confident that the FDA would have agreed that the scientific data clearly demonstrated the safety of our products." The company's line of oral cold remedy products, as well as allergy, congestion, and cough products, are not affected by the FDA advisory.

Honorary Degree for Eckel

Sitting at the helm of Pharmacy Times is only one of Fred Eckel's many achievements. The long-time pharmacist recently added to his list of accomplishments when he received an honorary doctor of science degree from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, his own alma mater.

"I have enjoyed being a pharmacist and serving patients, student pharmacists, residents, and practitioners throughout my career," said Fred Eckel, MS, RPh. "I have been a pharmacist for almost 50 years, never thinking I would be honored by an honorary doctor of science. Sharing the occasion with my family made it extra special."

Eckel makes consistent contributions to pharmacy through his role with Pharmacy Times, as well as his post as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. He was director of pharmacy at UNC Health Care from 1968 to 1975 and has served as president of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, North Carolina Society of Health System Pharmacists, and the North Carolina Center for Pharmaceutical Care, for which he currently fills the executive director post.

Use of Biologics Continues to Grow . . .

The use of biologic therapies is rapidly increasing across multiple therapeutic categories, according to survey results reported in the 2009 Biotechnology Monitor&Survey: Marketplace Policies, Practices, and Perspectives. Thirty-eight percent of commercial health plans reported 6% to 10% growth rates, and 29% reported an 11% to 15% increase in members' utilization of biologics.

Growth was driven by the availability of new agents, an increase in the use of existing agents, and an increase in the use of combination therapies. In 2008, 67% of oncologists reported prescribing combination therapeutic regimens more often than in 2007, and 71% turned to biologic agents earlier in therapy. The diseases accounting for the highest level of biopharmaceutical use were breast, colorectal, and lung cancers; multiple sclerosis; neutropenia; and rheumatoid arthritis and/or psoriasis.

. . . While Out-of-Pocket Costs Impact MS Drug Fill Rates

New research by the pharmacy benefits manager Prime Therapeutics has found that multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with an out-of-pocket expense >$250 were 7 times more likely to decline to fill their prescription than patients whose costs were $100 or less.

According to the study, the majority of individuals had an out-of-pocket expense of $150 or less, and their decline-to-fill rate was 5.8%; for individuals with an out-of-pocket expense of >$150, how- ever, the decline-to-fill rate was 27%.

"Patients who aren't taking their medications face serious medical and health complications," noted lead study author Patrick Gleason, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, director of clinical outcomes assessment at Prime Therapeutics. "Health insurers should consider member cost and the impact it has on adherence when designing specialty pharmacy benefits."

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