Should Pharmacists Be More Involved in Patient Care?

The answer would be yes, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Services that was funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). As budgets are in decline for public health resources, pharmacies can be leveraged as a community resource to advance community-based health priorities. Teaming up pharmacists with other health professionals can have a positive effect on patient outcomes while reducing health care costs.

Pharmacists can play a bigger role within their community with such issues as combating the epidemic of opioid abuse, preventing antibiotic resistance and having plans in the event of emergencies like bioterror attacks.

Fighting Opioid Abuse

Reform is needed to lift restrictions on the role of pharmacies with opioid abuse education and intervention. Currently, only 23 states allow the purchase of naloxone at pharmacies without a prescription. Working with public health organizations, pharmacists can help reduce the number of new addictions, as well as facilitating treatment for addiction and overdose.

Preventing Antibiotic Resistance

All too often antibiotics are over prescribed, which leads to antibiotic resistance. If implemented, statewide protocols could allow for pharmacists to test for viral infections before dispensing antibiotic prescriptions that are ineffective for treating viruses.

Planning Emergency Response

With some pharmacies already offering vaccinations, protocols can be extended in response to flu pandemics or bioterror attacks. Such protocols will integrate pharmacists as an important resource to health emergency response for underserved or displaced populations for access to basic care.

What do you think? Do you agree that pharmacists should be more involved in patient care?

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New Biosimilar Cancer Drugs Approved

Cancer patients are expected to benefit from the recent approval by the FDA of the first biosimilar drug to treat various types of cancer. This drug, bevacizumab-awwb, known as Myasi, is the biosimilar of bevacizumab, known as Avastin. While the FDA has approved the use of Myasi as a biosimilar, it is not approved as an interchangeable product.

Benefits of Biosimilar Medications

The cost of existing treatments for diseases like cancer are usually very expensive. The release of biosimilars on the market helps reduce costs by encouraging competition among pharmaceutical manufacturers. This competition and cost reduction could make these important therapies available to more patients.

How Myasi is Being Used

The FDA has given the go-ahead for Myasi to be used to treat some types of cervical, kidney, brain, colorectal and lung cancers. It is being used in combination with other treatments including chemotherapies and interferon immunotherapies.

Myasi can still cause some of the same health complications that Avastin can cause, including gastrointestinal perforations, wound healing complications and possible severe or fatal bleeding.

It is the FDA’s goal to continue to promote the approval of biosimilar medications so that they are available as quickly as possible. However, while doing so, they will continue to make sure that these medications meet their rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness.

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How Pharmacists Can Prevent Toxic Combinations

A recent study conducted by Quest Diagnostics showed an alarming number of patients combining toxic drugs, for the most part unwittingly. Specifically, patients are concurrently using opioids and benzodiazepines. Often, they’re unaware that toxic drug combinations can occur with both prescribed and non-prescribed medication use. Pharmacists can be the first line of defense in protecting patients from lethal drug interactions.

Here are three ways that you can protect your patients and prevent toxic combinations.

Proactively Check for Potential Drug Interactions

When filling a prescription for first-time patients, request that they provide you with a list of all medications and supplements they are currently taking, including:

  • Prescription drugs
  • OTC drugs
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Herbal supplements
  • Nutritional supplements

Review all this information for potential toxic combinations.

Utilize Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

State PDMPs offer a promising means of intervention for improving oversight on prescription opioid medication. These programs can:

  • Recognize changes in prescribing behaviors.
  • Alert prescribers of patients who are obtaining multiple prescriptions from several providers.
  • Reduce the need for substance abuse treatment by curtailing drug abuse.

Implement Aggressive Patient Education Campaigns

Patient education is one of the best ways to prevent toxic drug combinations from occurring, especially among the elderly. Some ideas for educating your pharmacy patients include:

  • Explaining side effects and potential drug interactions with patients when filling prescription.
  • Encouraging pharmacy patients to have all their prescriptions filled at your pharmacy by offering incentives, such as discount drug programs or coupons good for money off on non-drug items.
  • Having a brown bag day where patients bring in all their prescriptions, OTC medications, vitamins and supplements for review for drug interactions.
  • Offering no-questions asked disposal of expired or leftover medications along with an incentive for doing so.


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