Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama seeks drug imports outside of health bill

From Reuters:
The pharmaceutical industry's powerful Washington lobbying group backs the healthcare reform legislation that is President Barack Obama's top legislative priority, but its important support for that effort could evaporate if drug imports are included.

White House adviser David Axelrod said the administration will pursue the issue, but not in the healthcare reform bill.

"Let me be clear. The president supports ... safe re-importation of drugs into this country," Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" program. "There's no reason why Americans should pay a premium for the pharmaceuticals that people in other countries pay less for."

The importation of drugs from other countries has been proposed for years as a way to lower prescription drug costs in the United States. The same prescription drugs sold in the United States often are sold at much lower prices in other countries, including Canada. ...more

Idaho pharmacist who tackled armed robber fired

From the Chicago Tribune:
A northern Idaho pharmacist who tackled a gun-toting robber and received a special award from the city of Coeur d'Alene has been fired for violating company policy.

Jerry Gunderson said he was dismissed from the Shopko pharmacy late last month because he resisted the robbery.

A Shopko spokeswoman at the company's corporate office in Green Bay, Wis., declined to comment.

On Nov. 18, Gunderson chased after the gunman who police say had just stolen six bottles of anti-anxiety prescription medicine, then tackled him near the entrance of the store.

Gunderson said he initially was only trying to get information for police. ...more

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Provinces unsure what to do with extra H1N1 vaccines

From the National Post:
As H1N1 flu clinics continue to close across the country and with decrease demand for the shot, governments and health officials are dealing with an unexpected surplus of vaccine -- although few provinces have determined what they will do with the millions of leftover doses.

The federal government has distributed a total of 24.6 million adjuvanted and unadjuvanted doses of vaccine to the provinces. Fewer than 13.8 million doses have been administered. Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's chief public health officer, said the federal government and World Health Organization are talking about what to do with surplus vaccine doses. There is no national plan in place yet to deal with the extra vaccines, he said.

The federal government recently announced declines in demand for the vaccine and most of the provinces have noted a decrease in the severity and impact of the virus, including fewer positive tests for H1N1. The number of deaths and hospitalizations related to the flu are dropping across the country, said Dr. Butler-Jones. These numbers have declined steadily for weeks. ...more

Drug prescriptions unreliable: officials

From Viet Nam News:
Around 73 per cent of doctors’ prescriptions have not been properly checked, nor have patients been properly advised on drug prices and potential side-effects, health officials said yesterday during a conference held in Ha Noi.

According to the Ministry of Health’s Examination and Treatment Management Department’s deputy director Cao Hung Thai, the main reason for the situation was a serious shortage of pharmacists nationwide.

"Technically, pharmacists are in charge of consulting and guiding patients how to use medicine effectively, safely and properly at reasonable costs. They play an important role in medical treatment," Thai said.

However, many patients still purchase drugs without professional consultations as the number of pharmacists at hospitals and health clinics remains inadequate and their professional skills are limited. ...more

NHS faces 'potentially serious problems' from wrong prescriptions on the NHS

From the Telegraph (UK):
Junior doctors on average fill out five or six prescription forms during their whole time in medical school only to have to complete dozens on their first day on the wards.

The inadequate preparation helps contribute to almost one in 10 prescriptions containing errors that could harm patients, it was said.

Now the British Pharmacological Society (BPS) is calling on the doctors to take an exam called the National Prescribing Assessment before being qualified.

They also want a "prescribing simulator" to be introduced to the curriculum so that medics are better prepared when they start in hospitals.

Professor Simon Maxwell, chairman of the BPS, said: "Everybody thinks that the system should and can be overhauled.

"We would not accept this kind of error rate in other industries such as aviation. It is a recipe for problems." ...more

Pharmacy frustration

From the St. John's (NL) Telegram:
It's happened to Burin Peninsula resident Madeline Broydell and many others with chronic illnesses.

Here's how it usually plays out. Broydell is low on the medications she uses to control her diabetes and high blood pressure, but her doctor is out of town and is unavailable to write her a new prescription.

She pays a visit to Doug Stanley, a pharmacist at Burin Pharmacy, who's been filling her prescriptions for many years and knows her medical background almost as well as her doctor.

But Stanley throws up his hands. Without a written prescription from a medical doctor, he can't help Broydell.

He tells her to visit the emergency department at the local hospital in order to get a written prescription, a process that could take many hours and forces her to expose herself to an environment filled with sick, possibly contagious patients.

"It's very frustrating," Broydell said Friday from her home in Burin Bay Arm. "I've ran into this problem a couple of times. ...more

Prescription For Winning

From ESPN:
Recently, I headed up to Massachusetts to catch up with BMX racer turned pharmacist Johnny Pinsonnault. I really had no clue what to expect. Outside of BMX races I had never hung out with him, and the only time I spoke to him prior in regards to him sending me season one of Gossip Girl on DVD. But in the three days I visited Johnny, I learned quite a bit. For starters, he is a donut connoisseur. He also has awesome parents, and if he's going to do something, he's going to do it right, whether that's becoming a doctor, throwing down hot laps at every race or digging at the trails. If he has a goal, he'll do everything in his power to meet it. And when he's not killing it on his bike in 26-34 Expert or searching for donuts and junk food, his days are spent at the hospital distributing medicine. Even though Johnny wasn't in the the Action Sports Braniacs feature, he fits right in there. This is Johnny Pinsonnault. ...more

Turkish govt cancels all deals with pharmacists after strike

From World Bulletin:
Turkish government cancelled all deal with pharmacists days after nation-wide strike over drug prices.

Turkish Pharmacists Union (TEB) declared that Social Security Organization (SGK), which unilaterally cancelled the medicine provision contract, would be "responsible" for inaccessibility to medicine for people with social security after January 10.

Pharmacists across Turkey, responding to a call by TEB --the sole authority to sign collective medicine provision deals with government-- closed their pharmacies for one day on December 4, in protest of medicine price cuts, despite SGK's warning that it would cancel the deal. ...more

Pharmacist authorized to give injections

From the Williams Lake (BC) Tribune:
Georgina Chipman is the first pharmacist in Williams Lake authorized to give vaccine injections.

“I’m the only one so far,” says Chipman , a part-time pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart, who took part in a program put on by the B.C. Pharmacy Association and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

She says the course is brand-new, as it started in the summer for pharmacists to become authorized through the B.C. College of Pharmacists to give vaccine injections.

Chipman took the program this fall due to the H1N1 pandemic.

“They were trying to train more health professionals to be available to give injections, specifically for the flu shots,” she says, noting that she can give other vaccines as well. ...more

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'It's ruining people's lives': province looks at restricting Oxy

From the Sault (Ont.) Star:
First, it takes away the pain. Then it takes over your life.

Pharmacist Jon MacDonald has seen the astonishing rise in opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin over the last decade, and welcomes changes the provincial government wants to introduce to how they're prescribed and dispensed.

"If doctors are tracked, and know they're tracked, they'll prescribe a little more responsibly. And the same for pharmacists," said MacDonald, operator of the Medicine Shoppe on Second Line West, who until this year was regional spokesperson for the Ontario Pharmacists' Asoociation.

Ontario's Health Ministry wants to use a computer tracking system that would monitor how much of a drug is going out and send alerts if a prescription is received two days in a row.

MacDonald said it shouldn't be difficult, as anyone with a health card in Ontario is already entered into a database when they get prescriptions filled. The missing link right now is that nobody is actually monitoring what's going on, he said. ...more

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

US Senate rejects drug imports under health bill

From Reuters:
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday rejected two proposals to allow Americans to buy cheaper prescription medicines from other nations, preserving a deal between the White House and the pharmaceutical industry.

A bipartisan group of more than two dozen senators had sought to allow drug imports from Canada and other countries -- where drugs often sell at a much lower cost than in the United States. But they saw their proposal, which needed 60 votes to pass in the 100-member Senate, fall short by a vote of 51-48.

"We shouldn't be paying the highest prices in the world," Democrat Byron Dorgan said before the vote on his proposal.

Other senators backed a separate measure to allow imports that have been certified as safe by U.S. health officials. Also needing 60 votes, the proposal lost, 56-43.

The measures were offered as part of broad Democratic legislation to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system by expanding access to health insurance, tightening insurance industry regulations and controlling certain costs. ...more

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Use of stomach drugs by seniors soars

From the Globe and Mail:
The number of seniors taking acid-reducing drugs to treat gastrointestinal woes has soared by 60 per cent over the past five years, newly released data show.

More than one in five Canadians over the age of 65 were treated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) in 2007-08, up from one in eight in 2001-02, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“Usage seems to be steadily increasing,” said Michael Gaucher, manager of pharmaceuticals at CIHI.

Part of the increase seems to be a switch from an earlier class of medication known as histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs), but there also seems to be an increase in acid-related conditions, he said.

PPIs and H2RAs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), reflux esophagitis and peptic ulcer disease. They are also used to eradicate Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes ulcers, and to prevent and treat ulcers caused by routine use of medications such as painkillers. ...more

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pharmacies blamed for dirty needles

From the Ottawa Sun:
Ottawa’s pharmacists are frustrated that they have been blamed for the number of dirty needles being collected on the city’s streets.

The complaint, which will be tabled at City Hall Thursday, stems from a briefing note by the city’s former medical officer of health, Dr. David Salisbury, to Coun. Diane Holmes on March 12, which states “legitimate purchases from pharmacies ... represent a significant portion of the needles on the street.”

This year, the city has collected 149,347 more dirty needles than the clean ones it’s given out to drug users, raising questions as to where they are coming from.

Salisbury also speculated to the Sun last year the needle source could be a syringe black market or Hull needle distributors.

The Ottawa-Carleton Pharmacists’ Association claims there’s no proof behind Salisbury’s assertion that pharmacies are a source of the needles. ...more

H1N1 could boost antibiotic prescriptions, creating more drug resistance

From the Vancouver Sun:
Infectious disease experts worry the H1N1 virus will drive a surge in antibiotic prescribing, potentially leading to more drug-resistant organisms.

As Canada enters the normal peak season for flu, doctors are facing a perennial problem: how to distinguish flu from rare and grave bacterial infections such as meningitis and serious Group A streptococcal infections.

Early signs of meningitis include some of the same symptoms recommended in screening questions for H1N1, including fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea, two doctors writing in the British Medical Journal recently warned.

Bacterial infections need to be treated with antibiotics. Should doctors face what they term "diagnostic uncertainty," doctors will prescribe the antibiotics as well as an anti-viral medicine, such as Tamiflu, just in case.

While flu activity is falling, officials warned Tuesday that H1N1 is far from gone, and the number of visits to doctors nationwide for flu-like symptoms have been at levels not seen in 12 years. ...more

Prescription drug kiosks get OK in Ontario

From CBC News:
People in Ontario will soon be able to buy prescription drugs through an ATM-like self-serve machine now that Bill 179 has been passed in the Ontario legislature.

PCA Services Inc. of Oakville, Ont., plans to roll out hundreds of kiosks across the province in places like malls and grocery stores once regulations are in place, which the company hopes will be within three months.

The kiosks, which have been in use in a handful of Ontario hospitals for two years, will likely become as indispensable as bank machines and cellphones, particularly as governments look for ways to cut health-care costs, said Peter Suma, president of PCA Services, which developed the machine.

"It will be like a cellphone. It will free you from locational dependence," Suma said in an interview with CBC News.

He used an example of going to a grocery store late at night, only to find the pharmacy section is closed. In the future, a customer will just head over to a PharmaTrust machine, as they're called, feed the doctor's prescription through a slot and pick up the phone for a video conference with a pharmacist. ...more

Pharmacists are a vital, if under-used, part of healthcare

From the Los Angeles Times:
There's an old Jerry Seinfeld joke many pharmacists know all too well. It's the one in which he describes their "whole job" as taking pills from a big bottle and putting them in a little bottle.

"I think that's how a lot of people see us," says Jeff Goad, an associate professor at the USC School of Pharmacy, with both frustration and good humor.

But pharmacists' long years of training -- at least six and as many as eight -- prepare them for much more than repackaging pills. "In terms of the number of hours spent studying drug effectiveness, pharmacists are better trained than physicians," says Julie Donohue, an associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh.

Gone are the days in which pharmacists wouldn't even tell patients what was in their medications, Goad says. Pharmacists now can help patients get the most good from their medications, manage side effects, avoid interactions, even save money.

Today, most, if not all, states have laws requiring pharmacists to give patients specific information. Pharmacists in California are required by state law to offer counseling to patients about every new or changed prescription they fill. Pharmacists and other public health experts call this an offer no one should refuse. "It's the last critical safety check," Goad says. ...more

Bill to help sale of HIV drugs gains support

From CBC News:
A federal private member's bill aims to cut through the red tape hampering generic drug companies from shipping cheap HIV/AIDS drugs to developing countries.

On Wednesday, MPs will review New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis's bill, designed to reform Canada's access to medicines law.

When Canada passed its access to medicines legislation five years ago with support from all parties, it was lauded as a world leader.

The intent of the access to medicines regime was to allow generic drug manufacturers to compete to supply less-expensive drugs to developing countries for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Under the current legislation, generic drug makers must obtain a special licence each time they want to sell a drug to a country over a certain time, and pay royalties to the patent-holding drug companies on any such sales.

But the current law is not working, Wasylycia-Leis said. Since it was passed, the process has proved so complicated that only one order of HIV drugs was ever made and sold. It reached Rwanda last year. ...more

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

'It's about giving, not winning'

From the Ottawa Citizen:
When Jag Dattani first came to Canada 37 years ago, the then 31-year-old pharmacist had to take work as a stock boy to pay his bills while he earned his Canadian credentials.

On Monday, Dattani's rags to riches story will reach its pinnacle, when the 68-year-old native of Uganda is awarded the Outstanding Pharmacy Owner Award at this year's Commitment to Care and Service awards in Toronto.

While he's honoured to be receiving one of the highest pharmacy honours in Canada, the soft-spoken Dattani said his hard work has never been about seeking recognition.

"You just help people all the time," he said. "That's why I became a pharmacist. You don't look at those compliments or other things. That's not what it's all about. It's about giving."

Dattani has owned and operated the Bells Corners Pharmacy on Robertson Road in Nepean for the past 31 years. Although he sold the family business before announcing his retirement earlier this year, he said his relationship with customers was what kept him going over the past three decades. ...more

Pharmacy clinics are a health risk, claim GPs

From the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald:
A joint venture between a pharmacy chain and nurse practitioners to open clinics that will provide treatment for such ailments as colds and flu has been attacked by the Australian Medical Association as a threat to public health.

But the Pharmacy Alliance Group and Revive Clinics say their service will alleviate the pressure on the health system and have accused doctors of trying to protect their turf.

The first Revive Clinic in NSW opened at a Richmond pharmacy last weekend, after the opening of clinics in Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT.

A deal between Revive Clinics and the Pharmacy Alliance Group, which manages more than 400 pharmacies, will increase the number of shops offering the service over the next three years, depending on the demand.

The clinics will be held in pharmacies carrying the healthetc brand. Managing director Tom Love hailed the move as positive for public health, noting that the clinics were opening in areas suffering a GP shortage. ...more

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Over-the counter eye drops raise drug resistance fears

From BBC News:
The move to sell antibiotic eye drops over the counter has led to a large rise in usage, prompting fears about drug resistance, a study says.

Oxford University found that two years after the change, 3.4m doses of chloramphenicol, a conjunctivitis drug, were being sold annually - a 50% rise.

Researchers said the trend was "concerning" as the problem often cleared up without the need for drugs.

But doctors said the move had improved patient access and freed up GP time.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency reclassified the eye drops in 2005, allowing pharmacists to hand them out without the need for a prescription. ...more

Foreign workers to get credentials quicker

From CBC News:
Certain groups of foreign-trained workers will know within a year of applying for certification whether their training will allow them to work in Canada, the federal government said Monday.

Beginning in December 2010, foreign-trained architects, engineers, financial auditors and accountants, pharmacists and registered nurses will be among the groups that fall under the new framework, Minister of Human Resources Diane Finley said in Toronto.

“It used to be that it could take two years after someone got here just to find out where and how to get their credentials evaluated,” said Finley.

"We recognize how important it is for newcomers to put their training and their knowledge to work here in Canada…. It's vital for them, and it's vital for their families and it's vital for our economy." ...more