Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ontario tests paperless prescription system in two communities

From the Canadian Press:
Barely legible handwritten prescriptions could become a pharmacists' headache of the past in Ontario as the provincial government on Tuesday introduced its first phase of a paperless prescription process.

The system, called ePrescribing, lets doctors forgo handwritten prescriptions, instead sending instructions to pharmacists electronically through a private computer network.

Doctors say patient safety will be enhanced because the prescriptions will be legible and clear.

"Messy handwriting, it's a huge concern," said Dr. Lewis O'Brien, a family physician in Sault Ste. Marie, one of two communities testing the electronic prescription system.

"It's a natural occurrence of people that are too busy and trying to do too much."

Instead of filling out a prescription on a notepad, a specially designed program allows O'Brien to complete a prescription in the patient's medical chart that also contains the patient's medical history. A safety mechanism warns physicians if they prescribe unsafe drug combinations or inadvertently try to prescribe medication that a patient is allergic to. ...more

Ont. health-care professionals to get new powers under government bill

From the Canadian Press:
Ontario wants to broaden the scope of practice for many health-care professionals as part of a strategy to address the chronic shortage of doctors, proposing new rules that would allow nurse practitioners to set broken bones and give dental hygienists the power to write prescriptions and sell medicine.

Under legislation introduced Monday, dentists would be able to fill prescriptions, pharmacists would be allowed to write refills for prescriptions, and physiotherapists would be given the power to order X-rays and treat injuries.

The proposed changes will make Ontario's health-care system more efficient and more accessible, Premier Dalton McGuinty said.

"It will free up doctors to do those kinds of things which only doctors can do," McGuinty said. "There's a number of things doctors are doing on their own right now that we think other health-care professionals can do as well." ...more

Bigger role for pharmacists worries doctors

This article could replace every reference of New Zealand and change it to Canada and it could be published in a Canadian paper. The issues seem to be the same around the world.

From the New Zealand Herald News:
Pharmacists' calls for more healthcare responsibility could have dangerous consequences if patients stopped seeing their GP, the head of the Medical Association has warned.

Peter Foley's comments follow the Pharmacy Guild's push for more funding, as part of a review of its district health board contracts, to act as a first point of contact in administering some health care.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said this week the Government was in talks with pharmacists about them playing a bigger role in tending to the sick.

Pharmacy Guild chief executive Annabel Young said pharmacists wanted to be given the right to help patients in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma through health counselling and guidance on prescribed medicine use. They also wanted to be able to carry out medicine-use reviews, which involve monitoring patients' use of prescribed medication to ensure better results and cut the costs of unused medication. ...more

Automated telephone reminders pay off for blood pressure patients: study

From CBC News:
Automated telephone call reminders helped people with high blood pressure to lower their readings compared with people who did not receive the calls, researchers in Montreal found.

In the one-year study to be published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 223 patients with hypertension were randomly assigned to receive calls from a computer-based system at least once a week with high readings sent to their doctors or receive an educational booklet and usual medical care.

"Forty-six per cent were controlled, achieved the target, versus 28 per cent without the system," senior author Dr. Pavel Hamet, a professor of medicine, physiology and nutrition at the University of Montreal, said Tuesday.

The improvement was "highly significant," and the system worked as well as adding a new medication, Hamet said. ...more

Drug Dispensing Machines May Change The Way You Fill Your Next Prescription

From City News Toronto:
Imagine being able to get your next prescription filled without having to go to a pharmacy. It's not such a bitter pill to swallow if you're in Ontario.

The government has introduced a bill that would allow you to receive your Rx from a special drug dispensing vending machine, making it easier to get your prescriptions renewed.

The idea would amend existing rules that require a pharmacist to be present when the pills are doled out. Under the new method, you'd run your prescription through a scanner (below), where a pharmacist would see it - and you'd see him or her via a video conferencing link and talk to them over a private closed circuit phone line. ...more

Monday, May 11, 2009

Medication a defence for punching the boss

From the National Post:
A labour arbitrator has reversed the firing of a veteran elementary-school janitor who sucker punched his boss, ruling that an experimental arthritis drug the man was taking as part of a clinical trial helped trigger the angry outburst.

It may be the first time in a Canadian legal hearing that pharmaceutical adverse effects have been successfully invoked to justify violent behaviour.

The custodian, Alf Clayfield, had put in 22 years of generally exemplary service with an Ontario school board before the October incident with his manager.

He acted out of character partly because of the medicine's neurological side effects, the arbitrator said in replacing the dismissal with a three-month suspension.

Mr. Clayfield said the problems he attributes to the drug began with insomnia, headaches and dizziness. "I found that things that never bothered me before would irritate me very quickly," the Kitchener-Waterloo public school board employee said in an interview. ...more

Man fights to get cancer drug funded

From the Fredericton (NB) Daily Gleaner:
Frank Taylor may be fighting colon cancer, but he still has enough energy to pressure the province to cover the expensive colorectal cancer medication Avastin.

New Brunswick is one of only three Canadian provinces that don't pay for the medication - Prince Edward Island and Manitoba are the others.

That's forced Taylor to borrow about $35,000 from the bank to pay for his costly treatment sessions.

He said he's been drumming up support for the cause since he was diagnosed with colon cancer months ago, and he won't stop until every New Brunswicker is given the same access to the drug as other Canadians.

"We've got to do something about this," he said.

"My sister lives in Ottawa and she could walk in (to a doctor's office) and they'd look after her. I don't feel bad about that at all, but if I lived there, or in Amherst, I wouldn't have a problem." ...more

Shoppers Drug Mart looks to private-labels as customers hunt for deals

From the Canadian Press:
Retailers are shifting their focus to private-label brands as more Canadians search for low-cost shopping alternatives, and the chief executive of Shoppers Drug Mart wants to ensure that the company's popular Life brand and its other private-label products, aren't left in the dust.

Jurgen Schreiber told shareholders at the company's annual meeting Thursday that Canada's largest drug store chain by revenues (TSX:SC) is introducing three to five new private-label items each day, as part of long-term revamp of its private-label products across the entire store.

"There's so many more private-label (items) in the store," the CEO said in an interview after the meeting.

"Last year we had, I think, 1,800 new products coming in on private label."

Chances are, you probably didn't notice most of them the last time you visited their stores because, as Schreiber puts it, they were "silently introduced" onto the shelves, selling under relatively covert names like Nativa Organics, Quo cosmetics and Get office supplies. ...more

Pharmacists warn on abuse of antibiotics

From IPP Media:
Local and international pharmacists have expressed fears over the abuse of antibiotics, saying if the trend would continue at the present rate, curable infectious diseases, would be sending majority of the people to the grave early.

``In Tanzania the predicament of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is alarming,`` said Zaina Msami, a renowned pharmacist at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) project-Mission for Essential Medical Supplies (MEMS).

Addressing a press conference in Arusha yesterday, Msami said some of the causes of AMR were incorrect dispensing, failure to adhere to rules of antibiotics taking and misuse of the drugs in animal feeds such as chicken and pork to speed up their growth.

``You can`t imagine, nearly two thirds of people take antibiotics without medical doctors prescription or check up,`` she explained.

In northern Tanzania, for instance, the study has shown that 81.3 per cent of malaria patients had SP resistance, she said, adding that Ampicillin was defiant to treatment of urinary tract infections in 17.4 per cent of pregnant women. ...more

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sask. pharmacy rebates could top $30M, health officials say

From CBC News:
The province's prescription drug plan is estimated to cost taxpayers about $313 million this year, according to the provincial budget. (CBC)The Saskatchewan government is keeping a wary eye on the manufacturers' drug rebates being paid to pharmacies — an estimated $30 million to $40 million a year.

According to Health Ministry officials, the money — which the makers of generic prescription drugs routinely pay to pharmacy companies — should be going toward reducing the overall drug bill for taxpayers.

There are about 350 pharmacies in the province, so $35-million worth of rebates would work out to an average of $100,000 for each one.

For years, the province has liked generic drugs, because they're cheaper than their brand-name equivalents — and keeping drugs costs under control has been a priority.

Kevin Wilson, the executive director of the Health Ministry's drug plan branch, says the impact of rebates on drug costs is a problem the government is just trying to get a handle on now.

"It's more challenging as this has started to come to light," he said. "Our focus would be to focus on getting the lowest reimbursement price on generic drugs … and at the same time providing fair compensation to pharmacists." ...more

Gazans struggling with rising drug abuse

From Reuters:
Palestinians struggling to cope with the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the trauma of war are turning to painkillers and tranquillizers at a rate that risks triggering a wave of addiction.

There is also evidence of mounting recreational drug use as Gaza drifts in limbo, with no clear political future.

Gaza residents reported health problems after a 22-day Israeli offensive last January, with most citing psychological problems and stress, according to a survey published by the United Nations Gender Task Force on April 21.

"With increased trauma and stress and limited access to professional psychosocial services, there is a rising problem of self-medication with unsupervised pharmaceutical therapies among the Gaza population," said a summary presented in Jerusalem.

One eighth-grade teacher, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said she recently found several 13-year-olds using tramadol hydrochloride, a strong painkiller sold under the brand name Tramal which is now drug of choice in the Gaza Strip. ...more

Average spending 'significantly up': Shoppers Drug Mart

From the National Post:
Recession-addled consumers continue to spend more money at Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., despite the fact that it is not a discount retailer.

Chief executive Jurgen Schreiber said Thursday that the number of transactions at the country’s biggest drug retailer is up and that spending on an average basket at the checkout counter is "significantly up," which goes against general recessionary trends.

The biggest change that retailers tend to see during a recession "is that customers do fewer trips -- in general terms, a 5% to 7% reduction," Mr. Schreiber said following the pharmacy giant’s annual general meeting of shareholders. "But I don’t see that in our business."

He attributes the increase in customer trips to heightened promotions at the retailer, although he noted the rise in traffic was lower in the first quarter than in the first quarter of 2008. ...more