From the category archives:

Pharmacy news

Pharmacists Asked to Eye Mefloquine Prescriptions

by Toby Roberts on October 12, 2009

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an announcement to pharmacists regarding a recent number of Mefloquine prescriptions that have incorrectly instructed patients to take the 250 mg dose daily rather than weekly. Mefloquine is prescribed to treat malaria prophylaxis for individuals traveling abroad. [click to continue…]

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Pharmacists and pain management

by Cyrus on July 22, 2009

It has been almost three weeks since Michael Jackson’s death and I thought the media circus would change to another topic. But it seems that there was a recent survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacist (AHSP) to 200 pharmacists, who worked in ambulatory and chronic care practice, asking them if there was an increase public concern on the abuse of pain medication. This survey stemmed from a possible link to Michael Jackson’s death and his alleged prescription drug abuse. [click to continue…]

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As pharmacist, we are inundated with stress and pressure from our daily work. Often, there isn’t much we can do to eliminate that stress. But two recent court cases, in the US and UK, make it clear that the stakes for dealing with that stress have just gone up considerably.
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Feds hand down new OTC label regs

by Toby Roberts on May 22, 2009

Though the GAO recently decided not to create a third-drug class for OTC medications, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a ruling that OTC pain medications made from acetaminophen and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents) need to have a new warning label regarding potential overdose complications.

Although consumers view acetaminophen as relatively harmless, accidental overdose is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. It also accounts for over 10,000 emergency room hospitalizations and 100 deaths per year.

The most common cause of accidental overdose is consumers who are taking multiple medications that contain acetaminophen. Many consumers are unaware of the variety of pain relievers (both prescription and OTC), and cough and cold medications that contain acetaminophen. When a patient is only taking one type of medication it is easy to track the “do not exceed” amount but when multiple medications are used (as is common in cold/flu season) the safety thresholds can be exceeded in much less than a day. Patients who are taking both prescription and OTC medications are at a higher risk since most fail to consult their pharmacist before purchasing OTCs for minor ailments such as a headache or cold.

The new label is designed to warn consumers about the potential for liver damage from acetaminophen and stomach bleeds from the NSAIDs that may occur even if the recommended dosage is not exceeded. The ruling requires a bold label identifying the risks for consumers and clearly identifying the main ingredient in the medication. The label may appear on the bottle itself or on the outer packaging, depending on how the medication is shelved. The labels are required to be changed by April 2010.

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Three states roll out auto-dispensing units

by Toby Roberts on May 1, 2009

Most recently tested in Vermont but also used in areas of Alaska and Montana, automatic dispensing units are increasing the flexibility of consumers to pick up their prescriptions. The machines allow a pharmacist in one location to dispense medications for patients over larger geographical areas.

The operation of the machines depends first on a pharmacist to fill the machines with commonly used medications such as antibiotics and inhalers. A registered pharmacy technician then operates the machine under the watchful eye of a live video feed. The machine can be placed in a clinic facility so that patients in rural areas don’t have to drive a long way to get their prescriptions filled. Patients can also take advantage of a video phone to have a consultation with the pharmacist about the medication so the potential for communication about risks and side effects is not lost.

Despite some concerns that the machines might take business away from pharmacists, physicians say that is not the case and that the machines make for happier patients. Many patients have become frustrated with long drives and long waits to receive medications. This program solves that problem and the patients are so far reporting an increase in convenience and cost savings since they don’t have to make long commutes to pharmacies out of their immediate area.

There are so far about 250 machines in use across the country. The makers of the machines add that it gives the pharmacist an increased ability to provide services for those outside their immediate area.

Those concerned about security need not worry. The dispensing units are locked, well-secured, and yes, they are bullet proof.

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IL Pharmacists Win Delay in Conscience Case

by Toby Roberts on April 22, 2009

An Illinois judge is enacting a temporary rule that two pharmacists who have religious objections cannot be forced to dispense the “morning after pill”. The pharmacists object to the use of the pill because they believe its use is comparable to abortion. The judge issued a restraining order that allows the two (who own a total of five pharmacies between them) to refuse to sell the pill until a final decision is reached in the case. The Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling that the case must be heard and it is expected to reach court by June.

In similar news, physicians are banding together to protect a rights of conscience rule that George W. Bush signed into law at the end of his term as president. Just before leaving office, Bush signed the regulation that ensured physicians rights to refuse treatment (such as abortion) that they view as unethical.

Recently, the Obama administration has discussed rescinding the regulation which has physicians rallying to protect their rights. Obama’s supporters suggest that the regulation itself isn’t needed since prior regulations are already in place to protect physicians. That has not stopped physicians’ advocacy groups from rallying to protect the new legislation.

As the case in Illinois prepares for court it is being watched closely for its potential impact on the status of pharmacists and eventually physicians throughout the rest of the country.

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