Pharmacy Week in Review: Opioid Marketing Linked to Overdoses, Flu Activity Remains Elevated


A look at last week's top stories in the world of pharmacy.

A look at last week's top stories in the world of pharmacy.


Hello and welcome to the Pharmacy Times News Network. I’m Nicole Grassano your host for our Pharmacy Week in Review.

A recent study investigated the association of direct-to-physician marketing of opioid products by pharmaceutical companies and mortality from prescription opioid overdoses across the US, Pharmacy Times reported. This cross-sectional study linked county-level information from August 2013 to December 2016 across the following 3 national databases from the CDC and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The type of marketing and physician practice location was also analyzed. The study found that pharmaceutical companies spent almost $40 million in prescription opioid marketing to more than 67,000 physicians across 2208 counties. The study showed that for each 3 additional payments made to physicians per 100,000 people in a county, opioid overdose deaths rose 18%. The most common type of marketing is generally meals provided for physicians, and there is a growing amount of evidence demonstrating that this leads to increased prescribing.

Seasonal influenza activity remains elevated in the United States and is widespread in most of the country, Contemporary Clinic reported. CDC officials said on January 18 that they expect that flu activity will remain elevated for a number of weeks. Three flu-associated pediatric deaths were reported for the week ended January 12, 2019, according to the CDC. Those deaths are among a total of 19 reported cases of children who died this season from illness associated with the influenza virus. Overall, 3.1% of people in the United States sought treatment from their health care providers for influenza-like illness during the week ended January 12, 2019. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.2%.

The concept that individuals living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus to others has widespread implications for the prevention and treatment of HIV, according to a commentary published in JAMA, Specialty Pharmacy Times reported. However, this concept, called HIV Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U), has only been widely validated by clinical evidence in recent years. In the JAMA report, officials from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speak to the clinical studies that support U=U and discuss its implications. The authors noted that the validity of the U=U concept relies on achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load, pointing to the importance of adherence to antiretroviral therapy.

Pharmacists may get more questions about Humira if their patients have seen a new commercial for the prescription medication. In the spot, called “Body of Proof: Night Life: $5 Per Month,” people enjoy nighttime activities such as amusement park rides, playing pool at the bar, swimming and rollerskating. According to the commercial, Humira is a medical injection to provide relief to those who suffer from psoriatic arthritis.

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Thanks for watching our Pharmacy Week in Review. I’m Nicole Grassano at the Pharmacy Times News Network.

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