Drug Store News recently talked with COPD Foundation founder and president John Walsh about the organization’s new leadership. In March, the COPD Foundation took over leadership for Drive4COPD, which aims to screen people for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a collective term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which the group estimates to affect 24 million Americans who may have it but don’t know it.
DSN: What led the COPD Foundation to take over Drive4COPD?
John Walsh: We’d been a founding partner of the campaign since it was launched in February 2010, and very active in helping to promote the campaign and working closely with Boehringer Ingelheim and other partners to expand the outreach for the campaign. We thought it was most naturally appropriate for the campaign to be operated from the foundation or another not-for-profit so that there could be a much broader appeal for stakeholders within the COPD community to participate, and that includes any pharmaceutical company, biotech company or any regular corporation not involved with pharmaceuticals, as well as all the professional societies related to treating COPD and patient-advocacy organizations.
DSN: How would you characterize BI’s relationship with it? I understand they’ll be funding it still.
Walsh: Yes. So Boehringer Ingelheim is going to continue to support the campaign and participate on our steering committee. And as far as the governance of the campaign is [concerned], they’re still involved and actively supporting in the sense of providing resources to move the campaign forward. So Boeheringer Ingelheim remains committed to the success of the campaign …
DSN: Now that the COPD Foundation is in charge, what kinds of changes will be made to how it’s run?
Walsh: We’ve organized a steering committee for appropriate governance. The steering committee reports up to our board of directors so we will be completely transparent as to what moneys are expended for what activities, and we will be aggressively pursuing additional funding to support the activities of the campaign. The campaign — as you’ve seen it with the pinwheel logo and the Drive4COPD affiliation with NASCAR — is going to remain intact. We’re going to take the campaign one or two steps further not only by making certain that the 12 million people in America that are symptomatic but not diagnosed, so essentially at risk, identify their risk level for COPD.
And … through the simple five-question pop screener that you can take at Drive4COPD.org, we want to not only make sure that people take the pop screener and identify their risk level, but we’re [also] going to work very hard in trying to track the individual that’s at risk and make certain they get properly diagnosed. And if they’re diagnosed, [we want to] make certain that they’re aware that we’re a resource for them to learn more about living with COPD, to help them with their families and issues related to being diagnosed with COPD.
DSN: What are some major upcoming plans that you have?
Walsh: We’re in the process of finalizing an employer toolkit, which we will launch in the next few months. The employer toolkit is essentially a toolkit that will be available on the Web, as well as in hard copy, that will have a cost calculator. Corporations will be able to log on and, by the skill level and industry and geographic location, be able to quantify how many people in their organization might be at risk for COPD and what the actual cost for having COPD is. We’re going to be working very closely with the wellness directors and the [human resource] departments to make certain that we get the simple population screener — the risk screener — in their annual health risk assessment in their wellness programs. We’re also going to be working with state respiratory societies to get respiratory therapists in there with the spirometry testing for individuals with COPD and be there as a resource to both the employer and the employees as they’re diagnosed.
DSN: What are some things that retailers, especially pharmacy retailers, can do to participate in the campaign?
Walsh: We’re going to be reaching out very aggressively to all the pharmacy retailers to invite them to partner with us in this campaign. Flu season in the fall is a perfect example where we’d like to piggyback with the flu shots and the flu-shot campaigns. Everybody with COPD has a high risk level for influenza, [and we want] to make certain that [pharmacists] take advantage of getting all the patients that they have on products that treat COPD to get their flu shots. Also looking at [things that exacerbate] frequent infections to work with the pharmacists and have them help identify somebody who might be at risk. Obviously [we want to be] able to distribute at a point of sale the information to access the five simple questions and get as many Americans as possible to identify their risk level, and be there as a resource whether it’s on our website or on our information line, (866) 316-COPD. They can take the screener over the phone or on the website, identify their risk level, and know whether or not they need to make certain to get to their healthcare professional.
NewsBytes — Chain Pharmacy, 6/25/12
FLINT, Mich. — The leader of the country’s largest privately owned specialty pharmacy provider had a day in Washington. Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy CEO Phil Hagerman and several other business leaders were invited last month to attend a one-day forum on jobs and the economy, and opportunities for collaboration between government and private sector, by the White House Business Council and Business Forward.
“I am extremely honored to represent Diplomat, the state of Michigan and also Flint’s business community,” Hagerman said. “Diplomat’s continued growth has positioned us to be part of the Michigan delegation. In January, we had 360 employees. Today, as the nation’s fourth-largest specialty pharmacy, we employ over 700 people, and we’re hiring every day.”
Diplomat has expanded rapidly in the Flint area, completing in early 2011 its move to the General Motors Great Lakes Technology Centre. In July 2011, the company received a visit from secretary of labor Hilda Solis and was named in September 2011 to Inc. magazine’s top 5,000 list for the third year in a row.
In the wake of the White House Summit, Diplomat will look to hire more veterans, according to published reports. “The plight of unemployed veterans” was one of the takeaways from the event, Hagerman told local media in Michigan.
CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is expanding the range of vaccines that customers can get at its stores in West Virginia following rules recently enacted by the state regulators, the retail pharmacy chain said. Under the new regulations adopted by the state pharmacy, medicine and osteopathy boards, pharmacists now can vaccinate adult patients against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, shingles, flu and pneumonia.
“Thanks to the new regulations, it’s easier than ever for West Virginians in both rural and urban communities to protect themselves against a wide range of diseases,” Rite Aid regional VP pharmacy Bill Cropper said.
QUINCY, Mass. — Two supermarket chains owned by Royal Ahold are dispensing prescription pet drugs at their stores, they said. Stop & Shop announced a new pet medications program, which it is offering under a partnership with pet pharmacy PetCareRx. The program includes three popular prescription drugs for pets that had previously only been available from veterinarians and online vet pharmacy providers, including Heartguard Plus, Rimadyl and Frontline Plus. If customers can’t fill drugs at a local store, the pharmacist will work with PetCareRx to fill and ship the drug directly to their home address within two or three days. Another Ahold chain, Giant-Carlisle, is offering a similar program, also under a partnership with PetCareRx.
“At Stop & Shop, we recognize that pets are members of the family, and their health and well-being are of great importance to our customers,” Stop & Shop New England division public and community relations manager Suzi Robinson said. “We’re pleased to offer this great convenience for shoppers to pick up prescriptions for their pets when they pick up prescriptions for others in their family.”
Unused drugs: Take them back or throw away?
In 2008, an investigation by the Associated Press revealed that drinking water supplies in major cities and metropolitan regions across the country are riddled with pharmaceutical compounds. For 41 million Americans, it suggests water with something extra means more than just a slice of lemon, though the quantities of pharmaceutical compounds in the water are too small to constitute a medical dose, according to the report.
One reason why drugs are showing up in drinking water is because often when people take them, some pass through their bodies without being metabolized. But another reason is the habit many people have of flushing unused drugs down the toilet.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, working with local law enforcement agencies, has been arranging national drug take-back days every few months. The main purpose of the events is to keep drugs out of the hands of drug abusers, but sponsors of the events, including city governments and retailers, have touted their environmental benefits as well.
According to a new study by the University of Michigan, however, the best way to get rid of drugs in order to protect the environment may be to throw them in the garbage. The study, published in April in Environmental Science & Technology, measured the total emissions of active pharmaceutical ingredients and other water and air pollutants from three drug-disposal methods: taking them back to the pharmacy, throwing them in the trash and flushing them down the toilet.
The study found that if half of the estimated 200 million lbs. of unused drugs accumulated every year were thrown away and half were taken back, the amount of APIs in the environment would be reduced by 93%, while everybody throwing them in the trash would reduce the APIs by 88%. At the same time, however, the 5% difference would cost the economy possibly more than $1 billion per year and a 300% increase in emissions of greenhouse gases and smog-forming substances.
“National policy seems to be changing to support take-back programs, and we don’t know if that’s justified,” study author and University of Michigan Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering doctoral student Sherri Cook said.
To keep drug abusers from getting to prescription drugs, the study recommended mixing them in a sealed plastic bag with an unpalatable substance, such as coffee grounds.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA recommend throwing unused drugs away if patients don’t have access to take-back programs, such as those sponsored by pharmacy retailers like CVS and Giant-Carlisle. Supermarket chain Giant-Carlisle announced in May that it had collected nearly 3 tons of unused medications at 43 stores during a national take-back day. Meanwhile, the DEA regards take-backs as the best way to dispose of unused drugs.
“Unused drugs thrown in the trash in their bottles can be retrieved and abused or illegally sold,” a spokesman for the DEA’s Philadelphia division told Drug Store News, saying that the agency only recommends throwing drugs away if no take-back program is available. “Proper disposal of used prescription drugs can save lives.”