It’s the time of year when many of us spend a lot more time outside, moving our exercise regimens into the open air, holding BBQs, and shaking off winter’s deficit of vitamin D. It’s also the time of year to remind ourselves and patients about the importance of sun protection to reduce the risk of cancer. Melanoma has been particularly challenging for cancer researchers, particularly those in the immunotherapy field. While its study has gained momentum over the past ten years, immunotherapy has had a patchy history of effectiveness and adoption. (Here’s more on the interesting history of the concept circa the 1900s.) Scientists continue to hone in on what makes immunotherapy work—and not work—in cancer treatment. Of late, it’s thought that combinations of therapies may be the ticket, and this recent study has promise. Still, an ounce of prevention, right?: The CDC and the American Academy of Dermatology have a range of resources available, and we’ve put together this patient-facing download you can print or forward to your patients to remind them of the importance of sun safety.
Pharmacists from across the nation will converge in Washington D.C. on April 11 and 12 for the annual NCPA Congressional Pharmacy Summit. It’s a great opportunity to be an advocate for both independent pharmacy and for your patients.
We know the challenges of a prescription delivery market that is so heavily controlled by the PBMs. They determine which pharmacies are included in prescription benefit plans, how much they will be paid, and which drugs will be included in formularies. For independent pharmacies, PBMs are a particular threat: often, they try to persuade insurers to push patients to mail-order pharmacies or to pharmacies owned by the PBM itself—which would seem to be a clear (and actionable) conflict of interest in any other business. Limited networks, typically favoring chains, put patients in rural areas at a disadvantage, sometimes forcing them to drive many miles to access an in-network pharmacy.
You haven’t been able to walk down the hall at a pharmacy-related event over the past couple years without overhearing someone deriding DIR fees. They hamper predictability for the pharmacist in running their business, they push patients into the “donut hole” faster, and for 82 percent of pharmacists, their link to quality measures is not clear.
Two pharmacists from Smart-Fill sister companies Sterling Drug and Sterling Specialty Pharmacy testified last week before the Minnesota House on bills that would increase price transparency for pharmacy patients. Both bills seek to prevent patients from having to pay more than the “lowest allowable cost”: the least of the copay, the allowable claim amount, or the cash price—and not prevent pharmacists from informing their patients of the price differential. Similar legislation is being brought in other states as pharmacists wait for action at the federal level.
A sleep doctor from Virginia Mason Medical Center recently penned a step-by-step guide to curing insomnia—drug-free. Brandon R. Peters, MD, a board-certified neurologist, recommends a combination of education and cognitive behavioral therapies over a six-week program he developed at Stanford, which now runs in the Seattle-based clinic. Sleep research may be particularly important for the elderly.
This week, the FDA approved the super-sticky ZTlido, a non-opioid patch for nerve pain. The new product is expected to be a blockbuster at a time when a wide range of non-opioid treatments for chronic pain are highly sought. Sorrento Therapeutics’ ZTlido is expected to deliver relief to shingles patients more effectively than Lidoderm. Here’s a case for transdermal patches as a more effective drug delivery mechanism than oral ingestion—but they are not without their safety concerns.
Here are a few other stories that might be of interest:
Understanding patient barriers to adherence is a key starting point for improving outcomes—particularly for diabetics. Those barriers come in many flavors: access, habit, health literacy, behavioral health issues, even cultural variances in how a patient views health practices and the US health system as a whole. It’s a nagging problem, as is evidenced by the continued relevance of this decade-old list of barriers and strategies for overcoming them. Hosted by Pharmacy Times magazine, a panel of care providers studying collaborative care in diabetes management recently came up with this practical suggestion: explain exactly what is in an injectable, how it works, and why it is important. Then, do the first injection with a patient in the office or pharmacy.
It’s safe to say that we are all in agreement: this flu season has been wretched. The supply chain for certain drugs, saline solution, and other supplies has been tight across the country following a trifecta of nasty hurricanes. Since early November, the FDA has been actively updating healthcare providers with guidance for managing the acute shortage of such products, including some specific to pharmacies.