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Rx for a global safety net

BY Jim Frederick

In practical everyday terms, does it matter to the community or health system pharmacist that the Food and Drug Administration is forging ties with other agencies worldwide and becoming more international in its outlook and focus? You bet.

The FDA released a report on April 23 that detailed a slew of initiatives and strategies the agency is taking "to transform from a domestic to a global public health agency." The report described steps the FDA is taking "to ensure that imported food, drugs, medical devices and other regulated products meet the same rigorous standards for safety and quality as those manufactured domestically."

Among those steps: Improving information sharing among the regulatory oversight agencies in different nations about potential threats to public health from defective products or substandard manufacturing techniques, so that faster and more effective countermeasures can be mounted. (For a copy of the report, click here.)

This isn’t some wonky exercise by overreaching federal bureaucrats. This is government at its best, doing what it’s supposed to do: Protecting the public health. And it’s vitally important to pharmacy.

"Today we recognize that to successfully protect the U.S. public health, we must think, act and engage globally," FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. "Our interests must be broader than simply those within our own borders."

The numbers behind that assertion are striking. The U.S. now imports no less than 40% of finished dosage drugs – the ones you dispense to your patients – and more than 80% of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make our medicines. What’s more, according to Hamburg, FDA-regulated products originate from more than 150 countries, 130,000 importers, and 300,000 foreign production centers large and small. And imports of pharmaceutical products are growing at nearly 13% a year.

Hamburg said drug safety is a global challenge that will require a global alliance and "new, unprecedented, even unexpected, ways to build a public health safety net for consumers around the world."

Is she right? And, if so, is the FDA doing enough, fast enough, to ensure that safety net here at home? Please let us know what you think.

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Organic sales surpassed $31 billion in 2011, survey finds

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — The U.S. organic industry grew by nearly 10% to $31.5 billion in 2011, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 organic industry survey.

The OTA found that the easing of the recession, consumer price inflation due to input price increases and consumers’ increasing desire for convenience products were all factors that elevated growth for the year.

Overall organic product sales saw growth of 9.5%, which continued to outpace total sales of comparable conventionally produced food and nonfood items, which experienced 4.7% growth. Breaking down the total market capture, the organic food and beverage sector was valued at $29.22 billion, while the organic nonfood sector reached $2.2 billion. Additionally, organic food sales experienced 9.4% growth in 2011 and now represent 4.2% of all U.S. food sales, up from 4% in 2010.

Looking ahead, organic food and nonfood sales will continue to sustain growth levels of 9% or higher, OTA said.

"Consumers are increasingly engaged and discerning when they shop, making decisions based on their values and awareness about health and environmental concerns," OTA executive director and CEO Christine Bushway said. "For them, it matters whether foods are genetically engineered, or produced using practices that are good for their families. Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many choices for where to shop and a variety of products from which to choose."

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Dorlisa Flur exits Family Dollar

BY Allison Cerra

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Family Dollar announced that one of its executives intends to leave the company to pursue other interests.

The company said the departure of Dorlisa Flur, vice chair of strategy and chief administrative officer, is effective May 2.

"Dorlisa has served the Company in a variety of leadership roles and has been a valued part of our team," Family Dollar chairman and CEO Howard Levine said. "Her contributions to Family Dollar’s success are greatly appreciated, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

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