PHARMACY

Drinking water tainted with trace amounts of prescription drugs

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON and NEW YORK According to reports by the Associated Press and the Washington Post, the New York and Washington area’s drinking water has been discovered to contain trace amounts of common prescription items.

The drugs found in Washington were: the pain medications ibuprofen and naproxen; the anticonvulsive drug carbamazepine, which is used to reduce epileptic seizures and a mood stabilizer for treating bipolar disorders; sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic used for treating urinary tract and other infections; and monensin, an antibiotic used for cattle.

In New York, the geological survey and state health agency also detected the heart medicine atenolol; antiseizure drugs carbamazepine and primidone; relaxers diazepam and carisoprodol; infection fighters trimethoprim, clindamycin and sulfamethoxazole; pain relievers ibuprofen, acetaminophen and codeine; and remains of caffeine, which was also found in Washington, and nicotine.

The Associated Press has gone on to say that 24 of the major metropolitan areas across the continental United States have discovered drugs in drinking water supplies.

The reason for the discovery is that not all medications taken by a person are absorbed into their body. The rest being that the drug passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And although the chemicals in the water pose no immediate health threat, the health effects of drinking these drug compounds over a long period is largely unstudied. Some scientists said there is probably little human health risk; others fear chronic exposure could alter immune responses or interfere with adolescents’ developing hormone systems.

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PHARMACY

Pharmacy organizations in California request CMS examination of Medi-Cal cuts

BY Adam Kraemer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the California Pharmacists Association and the California Retail Association called on federal regulators Friday to carefully examine a state plan amendment for a 10 percent “across-the-board” cut to Medi-Cal reimbursements.

In a joint letter to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kerry Weems, the groups highlighted potential consequences of the reduction, which was enacted last month.

“We urge that CMS ensure that DHCS and the Medi-Cal program have performed their statutorily required due diligence under the Medicaid statute in evaluating the impact of each component provider reduction on beneficiary access. If they have not done so, we urge that the SPA be rejected,” the groups stated.

“Maintaining pharmacy access is important not only to Medi-Cal beneficiaries’ health and safety, but also to the Medicaid program’s overall ability to constrain costs at the ‘macro’ level,” they noted, citing studies that have found reduced access to prescriptions can result in increased emergency room visits and prolonged hospital stays, which are more costly forms of healthcare.

Pharmacies fill over 22 million prescriptions for Medi-Cal patients every year, and NACDS, CPhA, and the CRA represent approximately 5,000 pharmacies operating in California.

“Many California providers—and particularly pharmacy providers—have experienced repeated reductions in Medi-Cal reimbursement over the last few years,” the groups wrote. “[It] it is crucial that any additional cuts be performed in a measured and rational manner that takes beneficiary access levels into consideration. We trust that if the supportive documentation submitted by the state with the proposed SPA fails to meet the federal statutory standard, CMS will reject that submission and insist that the federal standard be met through a provider-by-provider evaluation of beneficiary access levels.”

The full text of the letter is available here.

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Merck inks deal to commercialize future Marcadia products

BY Drew Buono

INDIANAPOLIS Marcadia Biotech and Merck have signed a deal under which Merck will help the company test and commercialize its products.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay Marcadia an initial upfront fee, as well as payments for exclusivity and ongoing research. Marcadia will also be eligible to receive future milestone and royalty payments associated with research, development and commercialization of certain new drugs. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Marcadia does not have any products on the market yet. It is developing a synthetic hormone that will be supplied in an injector pen, making it ready for quick use in emergency treatment of hypoglycemia.

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