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Touro College of Pharmacy student receives award for public health education

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — The U.S. Public Health Service has awarded a Touro College of Pharmacy student for his efforts to educate the public about health care.

The college announced Tuesday that the USPHS had given its "Excellence in Public Health Pharmacy Practice Award" to third-year doctor of pharmacy student Steven Elrod. Elrod’s work includes speaking to children in New York’s Harlem neighborhood about health eating as part of a national campaign; visiting high school students in Staten Island to discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse; and researching grocery circulars in a poor neighborhood to compare them with those in a wealthier neighborhood.

"There are a lot of [pharmacy] students who do a lot of great things," Elrod said, adding he was "very flattered" to receive the award. "I was enthralled … it was just a beautiful gesture, and I couldn’t have appreciated it more."

 

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Standardized drug-administration instructions could improve adherence, group says

BY Alaric DeArment

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With some studies showing that patients’ failure to take their medications as directed costs the economy nearly $300 billion per year, one group is looking to tackle what it sees as part of the problem: doctors’ and pharmacists’ instructions to patients on how much medicine to take and when.

The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs is pushing what it calls universal medication schedule, or UMS, which would standardize those instructions, and it announced Tuesday the release of a white paper that describes what it calls the need for such a schedule and how it could be implemented using its Script Standard for electronic prescribing.

"Inconsistencies in current prescription administration instructions between prescribers, pharmacists and patients pose quality of care and patient safety risks," NCPDP president Lee Ann Stember said. "Compounding the problem is the state of health literacy in the United States, which several studies have found contributes to greater use of emergency departments, increased hospitalizations and more complications and deaths from chronic conditions."

Currently, instructions for administering drugs may appear in an inconsistent manner on drug labels. For example, when a prescriber uses the medical jargon "1 qd," a pharmacist may transcribe it as anything from "take one tablet once daily" to "take one tablet every 24 hours." Under UMS, the instructions would simply read "take one pill in the morning."

"Given that the percentage of Americans taking five or more prescriptions has almost doubled over the past decade and that about 40% of older adults use at least five medications, it is imperative that the industry act quickly to implement the UMS into their operations and practices to make it easier for patients to take medications appropriately, safely and as directed," Stember said.

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Coalition forms to take on PBM auditing practices

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — A nonprofit pharmacy advocacy group has launched a new project that it said was aimed at ensuring fair audit standards for prescription drug claims paid under the Medicare Part D program and protecting pharmacies and patients from what it called unfair audit and conduct practices by pharmacy benefit managers.

The group, Pharmacy Choice and Access Now also called for federal laws to address what it called inconsistent and nontransparent reimbursement rates and tackle the problem of alleged improper use of patient information. The PBM Reform Coalition will lobby legislators, the public and media on behalf of the issue. The coalition includes PCAN, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association, H-E-B, Walgreens, PharMerica, Omnicare and GeriMed. As part of its launch, the coalition expressed support for Senate Bill 867, the Medicare Prescription Drug Program Integrity and Transparency Act, which would mandate PBM audit standards, ensure transparency of payment methodology to pharmacies and require that recoupment of money through audits is returned to Medicare.

"Without sufficient regulation or oversight, some PBMs have been largely playing by their own rules, engaging in questionable business practices that are hurting taxpayers as well as patients and their pharmacies, and it’s time for this to stop" coalition spokesman and Texas pharmacist Dennis Wiesner said. "We look forward to working with policymakers and others to advance appropriate reform measures that establish standards that protect all parties — measures that keep healthcare costs down, preserve patient choice and allow pharmacies to remain focused on their number-one priority — providing accessible quality health care to their patients."

 

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