PHARMACY

NCPA: Pharmacists can help combat Rx drug abuse

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Local pharmacists work with patients and law enforcement to combat the abuse of controlled substances and other prescription drugs, but changes to federal policy are needed to allow pharmacists to play a greater role, the National Community Pharmacists Association suggested Thursday in comments submitted to Congress.

“NCPA is committed to working with members of Congress and state and local law enforcement officials to combat the inappropriate use and diversion of prescription drugs, and is committed to working toward sensible solutions,” the association stated in comments to a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee holding a hearing entitled “Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion.”

In the comments, available in their entirety here, NCPA made the following points:

  • Community pharmacists support national and local efforts to prevent the abuse of both prescription and nonprescription drugs, at the same time recognizing that Congress should not diminish access to effective pain treatments for people who need them;

  • Community pharmacists provide vital patient counseling to help ensure that these medications are not misused, abused or diverted; and

  • Consumers want ongoing, convenient and clear drug disposal options, and find local pharmacies to be the most convenient location to return unused or expired medicines.

The NCPA suggested that the Drug Enforcement Administration should consider community pharmacies — already licensed by the DEA and the state — as appropriate locations to receive unused controlled substances from patients. To date, more than 1,200 community pharmacies voluntarily are participating in NCPA’s Dispose My Meds disposal program and collected more than 25,000 lbs. of unused or expired medications in the past year alone; however, no one can accept controlled substances.

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NACDS to House committee: Pharmacy can help prevent, curb Rx drug diversion

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores submitted on Thursday an official statement to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, highlighting pharmacy’s commitment in partnering with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to help prevent and combat prescription drug diversion and misuse.

"Chain pharmacies participate in state controlled substance prescription drug monitoring programs. In addition, we are devoted to important initiatives to improve patients’ adherence to their prescribed medications," NACDS wrote in its statement, which was submitted for the subcommittee hearing, "Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion."

"Chain pharmacies and their pharmacists work with their patients daily to provide them with information and counseling on the proper use of their prescription medications and the importance of adhering to their prescription drug treatment," NACDS added.

The statement also laid out specific recommendations to federal policymakers, including strengthening state-level prescription drug monitoring programs, compensating pharmacy-provided medication therapy management services and shutting down illegal online drug-sellers.

"Further, NACDS and our member companies support policies that work to prevent illegitimate Internet drug sellers from selling or offering to sell drugs to U.S. consumers in violation of federal and state laws. We also support efforts to provide patients with means for disposal of their unwanted medications that are authorized by law enforcement," the statement continued.

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FDA: Certain TNF blockers could be linked to rare cancer

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has received reports of a rare and usually deadly cancer in patients using a class of biotech drugs to treat autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, the agency said Thursday.

The FDA warned that some patients taking tumor necrosis factor blockers had developed hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma, or HSTCL, a fast-spreading cancer of the white blood cells. Most of the cases were in adolescents and young adults using TNF blockers to treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, but cases of patients treating psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis had emerged as well.

TNF blockers include Remicade (infliximab) and Simponi (golimumab), both made by Johnson & Johnson, Abbott’s Humira (adalimumab), UCB’s Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), and Enbrel (etanercept), made by Amgen and Pfizer. The agency said some cases also had emerged in patients taking azathioprine and mercaptopurine, immune-suppressant pharmaceutical drugs available as generics, alone and in combination with the TNF blockers. However, the agency also said that patients with the diseases those drugs treat are at higher risk of developing lymphoma than the general population.

Over the years, the FDA has received a number of reports of patients developing cancers or deadly viral infections like progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy after taking immune-suppressant drugs for autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, though such cases are rare enough that the FDA generally has recommended that the drugs stay on the market.

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