Monday, January 25, 2010

Pharmacists protesting cuts

From the Edmonton Sun:
A group of Alberta pharmacies launched a campaign today protesting the provincial government's proposed cuts to community pharmacy funding.

The I Care About My Pharmacist campaign is fighting the second phase of the Alberta pharmaceutical strategy announced in October, which includes negotiating reduced costs for brand-name drugs as well as reducing generic drug prices from 75% of brand name drug prices to 45%.

The group is concerned that these price reductions will result in lay-offs, fewer pharmacy services, and ultimately force some pharmacies to close their doors.

"There are over 70 communities in Alberta that only have one pharmacy.

As a result, those Albertans are going to have to travel considerable distances just to get a prescription filled," said campaign spokesman Al Hodgins, adding these cuts affect patients' healthcare. ...more

Boots hit by mass homeopathy 'overdose'

There is mention of a "sympathy protest" in Canada. Has anyone heard if this has happened?

From the Telegraph (UK):
The protesters will drink large quantities of homeopathic fluids to illustrate their claim that the potions are too diluted to have any impact on the body.

Homeopathy has grown from an obscure alternative remedy to become a multi-million pound industry in the UK, with Prince Charles among its high-profile advocates.

But critics say there is little scientific backing for its claims to ease conditions including asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and depression.

Campaigners have already lobbied for the NHS to reduce its £4 million annual spend on homeopathic remedies and are now targeting Boots for profiting from what they claim is an "unscientific and absurd pseudoscience".

The Boots protests planned for later this month have been organised by campaign called 10:23, which grew out of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, a group of rationalist thinkers.

They will take place on high streets in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, Southampton and London, with sympathy protests in Australia, Canada and the United States. ...more

Hidden-camera video prompts two investigations

From CTV News:
Two provincial investigations have been launched into a possible methadone kickback scheme uncovered by CTV News.

The B.C. Health Ministry and the B.C. College of Pharmacists say they will start an investigation into an Abbotsford pharmacy after watching hidden camera video of what appeared to be an offer to pay cash to a drug recovery house in return for methadone referrals.

"Good for CTV to dig this up. I can tell you we'll be all over this," said Health Minister Kevin Falcon.

Depending on the results of the investigation, the pharmacy manager, Gerrylyn Sonier, could lose her pharmacist's licence, and the pharmacy could lose its contract with PharmaCare.

In either case, the pharmacy would not be able to fill prescriptions of any kind, including methadone. ...more

Katz sells last of U.S. stores

From the Edmonton Journal:
The Katz Group is selling its remaining 25 Snyders Drug Stores in Minnesota to Walgreens, ending its 11-year foray into the U.S.

A "significant number" of the stores will be closed, and the rest rebranded as Walgreens.

The Katz Group, under current Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, bought the Minnetonka-based Snyders in 1999 when it had 1,600 employees and 141 company-owned and independent stores in six Midwest states.

There were 55 stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul alone.

But only two years later, Snyders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

It emerged in 2003 with the 80-year-old Snyders name intact, but had to liquidate its Drug Emporium chain. ...more

Windsor pharmacists decry planned drug rebate ban

From the Windsor Star:
Seniors whose prescriptions are covered by the provincial drug plan could lose perks like one-on-one consultations if the province slashes "professional allowances" -- or cash rebates -- that pharmacists receive from generic drug companies to stock their products.

Local pharmacists are fighting proposed changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit program which they say will slash their revenues and force them to cut back services that seniors and the disabled depend on.

On one side is the Ontario government, which has been arguing for years that "murky" multimillion-dollar agreements between drug manufacturers and pharmacies are inappropriate, wasting health care dollars while gouging the prices of generic drugs.

On the other side are pharmacists who say they don't receive enough government funding and have to rely on rebates from drug makers as their only significant source of revenue.

The crux of the issue is the sale of generic drugs, which are widely prescribed and generally cheaper than brand-name meds. ...more

MS pill studies show better results, more risks

From CBC News:
People with multiple sclerosis may someday have the option of taking a pill for the disease instead of the injections available now.

But the oral treatments under study also carry potentially dangerous side-effects, two new studies suggest.

The studies in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine suggest the oral drugs work to reduce relapses and deterioration of the neurodegenerative disease, which attacks the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of MS include inflammation, paralysis and problems with speech, memory and concentration.

Current treatment therapies, which include the injection of drugs such as interferon, show good results but become tiresome for the patients in the long term, researchers say. ...more

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Drugstores poised to become true health-care hubs

From the Globe and Mail:
In a big-box world, the role of pharmacists seems increasingly humble. Camped out at the back of chain drugstores, counting out pills and providing occasional advice on which over-the-counter cold medication to take, they often seem more like clerks than health-care professionals.

That's the case in Ontario, at least, which has lagged behind other provinces in allowing pharmacists to make good use of their training.

But now Dalton McGuinty's government is positioned to leap to the front of the pack in transforming the profession.

Not only has it empowered pharmacists to perform certain services traditionally restricted to doctors - such as giving vaccinations and prescribing some medications - but it has the chance to provide a groundbreaking incentive to take on those tasks, turning pharmacies into health-care hubs.

Before Christmas, the Ontario legislature unanimously passed Bill 179, which permits pharmacists (along with nurses and nurse practitioners) to perform services normally limited to doctors - services they have already begun to provide in other provinces, including British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta and New Brunswick. ...more

Blue Cross, pharmacies still discussing agreement

From the Moncton (NB) Times and Transcript:
Medavie Blue Cross officials are still meeting with representatives from various pharmacies in New Brunswick this week to determine if the two sides can come to an agreement over how much pharmacies should be reimbursed for certain types of drugs.

The contract between Blue Cross and pharmacies in Atlantic Canada expires this year. One part of that agreement is the payment schedule, which indicates how much the company will reimburse pharmacists for filling specific prescriptions.

Yesterday, Medaview Blue Cross issued a news release in regard to media coverage the dispute has received. In it, senior vice-president of the company Laurier Fecteau said the insurer recognizes the importance of pharmacies to the community, but "our commitment is to ensuring sustainable drug programs for our policy holders across the region."

"The new payment schedule does have pharmacies being paid less for certain types of drugs, however, it is designed to reflect ongoing changes in the pharmaceutical landscape that sees pharmacies paying significantly less for generic drugs once rebates from manufacturers of these drugs are applied. We are trying to ensure Atlantic Canadians who rely on Blue Cross for coverage can enjoy some of these savings," Fecteau explained.

Pharmacies say these rebates have been a part of their business model since the dawn of the pharmaceutical industry and that they are simply a part of doing business that help a pharmacy continue to offer its services. ...more

Johnson&Johnson recall extended to Canada

From the Toronto Star:
A massive new Johnson&Johnson recall of over-the-counter medications extended to Canada Friday with consumers urged to stop taking Rolaids antacid tablets immediately.

The Rolaids recall affects bottles of 100 and 150, said McNeil Consumer Healthcare Canada.

“The Canadian company is taking this voluntary action as a precaution following consumer reports of an unusual odor” that are connected to wood pallets used with packaging materials.

Canadian consumers are asked to contact McNeil at 1-800-661-4659, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for instructions on how to return or replace their antacid tablets or go to ...more

Pharmacy checks pills with pix

From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:
A Musquodoboit Harbour pharmacy has scored a North American first with a new pill-checking machine that snaps photos of drug packages before they go out the door.

For the past year, Forest Hill Drug Mart has quietly been conducting trials on a compact medication detection machine developed by Global Factories of Holland.

"It digitally photographs and checks the contents of each packet," drug mart owner Nathan Hill said Wednesday.

"Typically what you have is different levels of checks and balances throughout the prescription process. We would have multiple technicians checking the packaging and then it goes on to a pharmacist to do a final check."

The new machine allows Forest Hill to skip one level of technician checks, saving about 20 hours of work a week.

"It’s 99.99 per cent accurate in finding errors in packaging," Mr. Hill said.

The device reads and photographs small cellophane packages used to distribute individual doses of medications to nursing homes, halfway houses and retail patients. ...more

Cochrane clinics offer something for every ailment

From the Cochrane (AB) Eagle:
After the EFW Radiology X-ray clinic closed its doors in February 2009, it seemed like Cochrane was at a disadvantage for medical services, considering the town’s new urgent care centre won’t open until 2011.

But a closer look shows there are plenty of exciting health developments in town — the first being plans for a new multi-disciplinary clinic.

Based out of EFW Radiology’s old office in Mainstreet Pharmacy located in the Cochrane Professional building on First Street, two pharmacists, one nurse and one clinical psychologist have banded together to create Inspiration Health Professionals.

Currently the space is being used for H1N1 immunizations, with the help of Inspiration pharmacist Sandy Dubyk, but Dubyk hopes it can be so much more.

Dubyk has been in the business for 20 years, and has his doctorate in pharmacy. He has worked in various settings from communities, to hospitals and Universities, as well as having done drug research.

His main focus is heart health and diabetes, which worked well with his last post with Pfizer Canada — the largest pharmaceutical company in the world — researching cardiovascular medicine. ...more

Local pharmacist now able to alter, refill prescriptions, immunize

From the Sackville (NB) Tribune Post:
Local residents can now have their prescriptions refilled easier, thanks to changes that went into effect recently under the New Brunswick Pharmacy Act.

George Murray, a pharmacist at Tantramar Pharmacy, is one of the province's first accredited pharmacists permitted to alter or refill prescriptions, administer vaccines and prescribe medications in an emergency.

Murray took a two-day training session in Moncton before applying for his licence.

"The first day was an injection how-to and there was a 15-hour online course as well that had to be completed before the hands-on training."

Murray also did CPR training.

Accredited pharmacists can now administer most types of vaccines, including those for H1N1 and seasonal flu, Murray said.

"The timing was good with the H1N1 outbreak. More people are scrambling for people who have the ability to provide immunization." ...more

Drug abuse a huge problem in N.B.

From the Moncton (NB) Times and Transcript:
News that a 23-month-old girl was in critical condition at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax after ingesting methadone at a home in Havelock has left many wondering how on earth the child got access to such a powerful drug.

The answer to that question is still under investigation in this particular case, but police say it is not all that unusual to find strong drugs like this in homes.

"We are far too casual with medicine in our society," says Sgt. Mary Ann MacNeil, the RCMP's section head for drugs and organized crime awareness in New Brunswick.

"We are far too complacent with getting medications from our doctor, our pharmacist, taking it into our home and, if we don't finish it all, we don't pay attention to what happens to it afterwards."

With young children in particular, a drug doesn't have to be that strong to cause problems.

"If a baby gets a hold of Tylenol, it is the same. Any drug can hurt you if it is not for you," MacNeil says. "You just always have to be aware of what is in your house and who is in your house and, for those with prescription drugs in their house, they need to be doubly cautious." ...more

Doctor claims she beat swine flu with vitamin D, elderberry

From the Vancouver Sun:
Dr. Gillian Arsenault admits she's probably raised more than a few eyebrows with her belief that she "beat" swine flu with large doses of vitamin D, along with elderberry syrup.

Arsenault is a former family doctor now working in public health as a medical health officer in the Fraser Health region, the area of the province that has been hardest hit by H1N1(360 hospitalizations and 17 deaths as of Tuesday).

Arsenault got H1N1 before she could get vaccinated against it. Though she had a prescription for an antiviral medication on standby, she never had to resort to it because although the flu hit her "like a truck," she was all but better by the fourth day, except for a lingering cough.

Now she's sharing what she believes may have done the trick: a combination of vitamin D and elderberry.

"Medicine is my job and my hobby. I spend a lot of time after work looking things up," she said in an interview, referring to her research on complementary health care for prevention of illness and treatment.

But she says she's not using her position in public health to advocate for complementary therapies. ...more

Pharmacy network still in pilot stage

From the Western Star (NL):
Dwight Ball, president of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, believes there’s much to look forward to as the medical world gets even more connected.

The Deer Lake pharmacist said one pharmacy has been added to a new prescription sharing network by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information and that was in late November.

This information sharing network is one component of provincial plans for a complete electronic health record and is designed to hold records of all medications prescribed to patients, connecting pharmacists and other health professionals together.

“This is the first step, but it’s a step towards complete electronic health records, which really will be years away,” said Ball.

“Eventually it’ll go through this pilot stage and then we’ll see the complete project. It could be a matter of weeks — who knows what comes out of the work that’s done at the reference stores,” he said. ...more

Filling prescriptions made easy at new electronic Med Centres

From the Ottawa Citizen:
Imagine being at the emergency room at 2 a.m. with your young child, who has an ear infection.

You've been given a prescription for some antibiotics. Instead of waiting for your local pharmacy to open or trying to find one of the few that's open all night, you walk over to a machine that scans the prescription, which starts a two-way video conference with a pharmacist. She gives you instructions and answers your questions, then tells the machine to dispense the medication.

This seems like a vision from the future, but it's a reality soon to arrive in Ontario, thanks to new health-care legislation passed in December. The machines, called Med Centres, exist in trial locations such as the Toronto General Hospital, where they have so far been a success.

Peter Suma, co-founder and president of Patient Care Automation Services, the company that created Med Centres, said the system will bring care to remote places.

"We intuitively think of the obvious benefit to places where there's no health care," Suma said, referring to rural communities far away from pharmacies. But he said the centres will also benefit people who work long hours or split shifts who don't have easy access to a pharmacy when it's open. ...more

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Friends mourn 'fearless' pharmacist killed in B.C. avalanche

From the Vancouver Sun:
On the hills he was fearless, with his clients he was dedicated — and when speaking to people in power, he was persuasive.

Friends and colleagues are grieving the loss of Canmore, Alta., resident Andy Troszok, the season's first avalanche fatality. He died Monday in a slide outside Rossland. B.C.

Troszok, 39, was engaged to be married in three months and was a pharmacist who became a leader in the online mail-order pharmaceutical industry.

As a co-owner of Extended Care Pharmacy in Calgary, and a founder of the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, he was on the front lines of providing cheaper prescription medicines to Americans. His role took him as far as speaking in front of parliamentary committees in Ottawa and to the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. ...more