News Capsules

Pharmacy TimesSeptember 2009
Volume 75
Issue 9

NY City Council Measure Would Require Translation Services

The increase in the number of individuals for whom English is not their first language is making an impact in many arenas and especially health care, where pharmacists are often at the front lines when non—English-speaking patients pick up their prescriptions and seek other health care advice.

A vote last month by the New York City Council in favor of a measure requiring pharmacists at chain pharmacies to provide translation services underscores the trend. The bill calls for translation of Rx labels and dosage and safety information in the 7 most spoken foreign languages. If signed into law by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the bill would take effect in May of next year.

For Spanish-speaking patients nationwide, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released new consumer guides in Spanish comparing treatments for high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and renal artery stenosis. The guides join 3 previously published AHRQ Spanish-language guides on type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, and osteoarthritis. To access the Spanish-language consumer guides, go to http://effectivehealthcare.

Pharmacist Jailed for Role in Toddler’s Death

Former Ohio pharmacist Eric Cropp was sentenced last month to 6 months in jail, 6 months of house arrest, and 3 years of probation, along with fines and community service, after being charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 2-year-old Emily Jerry in 2006. Cropp had pleaded no contest to the charges, which stemmed from his approval of a chemotherapy solution mixed by a pharmacy technician, which contained more than 20 times the amount of saline that should have been included.

As supervising pharmacist when the solution was mixed, Cropp was held responsible for the fatal error. Some pharmacy groups have expressed that a jail sentence for a medication error sets a dangerous precedent in the medical field.

“Without minimizing the loss of life in this case, we continue to be deeply concerned about the criminalization of human errors in health care,” the Institute for Safe Medication Practices wrote in a statement before the sentencing.

The Ohio Pharmacists Association is reportedly planning to push for federal legislation that would provide legal protections for pharmacists in such cases.

Delaware Pact Preserves Medicaid Funding

Severe cuts in Medicaid reimbursement rates for Delaware pharmacies were averted last month when the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association reached an agreement with the First State’s Department of Health and Social Services that will restore much of the funding.

The associations joined together in filing a lawsuit April 1, challenging Delaware’s proposed Medicaid reimbursement rate cuts for brand name drugs. If the cuts were implemented, the fees would fall below a pharmacy’s break-even cost. That lawsuit is no longer necessary because the state agreed to set reimbursement rates at the average wholesale price minus 14.5%, an increase of 1.5% from the original proposal. Delaware still plans to reduce reimbursement for certain generic drugs, but pharmacies will have an opportunity to petition for increased reimbursement if the new rates are below acquisition costs.

Remembering a Highly Respected Former Pharmacy Law Editor

Pharmacy Times and the world of pharmacy recently lost a great contributor, respected professor, and pharmacy advocate, Larry M. Simonsmeier, JD, RPh. Simonsmeier passed away on July 17, 2009, but left behind a great legacy. He bestowed his legal knowledge to a large audience, as he authored the Pharmacy Times “Legal Focus” for a lengthy run of 26 years.

Simonsmeier began his career practicing both pharmacy and law, and then embarked on a highly successful career as an academician at Washington State University (WSU). In this setting, he quickly rose through the professorial ranks and became a professor of pharmacy law. He also served the WSU College of Pharmacy as associate dean, acting dean, and dean.

During his term as dean, he brought together alumni and students to thwart an attempt by officials of the Council on Higher Education of the State of Washington to close the pharmacy degree program at WSU. His term as dean will always be credited with saving the pharmacy degree program at WSU—an important feat, as the program continues to meet the pressing need for pharmacists today.

Simonsmeier not only served many positions within different business and professional organizations, but also was a public service contributor. He worked closely with Parkinson’s patients, serving as support group leader and a member of the board of directors for Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon.

In his last column in Pharmacy Times, he wrote, “It strikes me that my career will not define my life, but my relationship with others will.” This is very true, as he was a great teacher and mentor, and his students continue to reflect great credit on his influence in their lives.

Congress Looks to Strengthen Meth Abuse Laws

As concern over illicit methamphetamine production and abuse continues to mount, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are moving bills forward designed to strengthen methamphetamine laws already on the books.

HR 2923, the “Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act of 2009,” has been introduced in the House by Reps Bart Gordon (D, TN) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R, WI). “Even with the 2006 law, our country still has a huge meth problem,” said Rep Gordon. “In Tennessee alone, which leads the Southeast in the number of meth labs, 1300 labs are expected to be seized by the year’s end.”

The proposed legislation would require all retailers selling ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products—the main ingredients commonly used to make methamphetamine—to self-certify that they have trained all store personnel about federal requirements related to the sale of these products, among other provisions. The bill has the support of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and is currently pending in the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; the Senate recently passed a similar bill (S 256).

BCBST/CVS Partnership Cuts Health Care Costs

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) is finding ways to greatly reduce health care costs, thanks in part to a new partnership with CVS Caremark. CVS Caremark recently announced the opening of a CarePlus CVS/pharmacy at the new BCBST campus in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This pharmacy serves roughly 4500 BCBST employees, providing enhanced prescription services, expert counseling on medication and cost management, and one-on-one clinical consultations with pharmacists.

“We are pleased to be working with CVS….,” said Ron Harr, senior vice president of human resources for BCBST. “Our new healthy culture campus is designed to provide our employees with easy access to health and wellness services that can keep them healthy while also managing both out-of-pocket costs for our employees and overall health care costs covered by the company.”

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