PHARMACY

SEMI helps Michigan doctors go paperless

BY Drug Store News Team

Michigan has long been regarded as one of the nation’s most proactive states in the push for adoption of e-prescribing, along with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nevada, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington. The state is home to the Southeastern Michigan ePrescribing Initiative, or SEMI, whose goal is to prove that doctors would actually find paperless prescribing useful once they began working with it and incorporating it into their day-to-day routine.

SEMI is a coalition involving the Big Three U.S. automakers—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler—as well as the United Auto Workers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, CVS Caremark, SureScripts, RxHub, Medco Health Solutions, the Health Alliance Plan and Henry Ford Medical Group. The partnership was established in 2005 “to encourage the adoption and use of e-prescribing technology among Michigan physicians in order to reduce medication errors and lower health care costs,” according to a statement from SEMI.

Michigan was also the site of a major, multi-year research project involving 500 Michigan-based physicians who agreed to participate in a separate test of e-prescribing. The research results, released in 2008, revealed that 75 percent of the doctors involved in the test said paperless prescribing improved safety for their patients – and almost 70 percent said it also improves quality of care.

More than 70 percent of those physicians also saw a reduction in communications with pharmacies over prescription questions; for 40 percent, the reduction was substantial. With research indicating that physicians typically spend more that three hours a day handling phone calls and extra work from prescription issues, the time savings were considered a key benefit.

The research driving adoption of paperless prescribing is increasingly compelling. The Center for Information Technology Leadership, as one example, found that use of e-prescribing systems with a network connection to pharmacy and advanced decision-support capabilities could help prevent 130,000 life-threatening medication errors annually.

Another study, from the Medical Group Management Association’s Group Practice Research Network, estimates that “administrative complexity” arising from traditional prescribing and dispensing procedures can cost a clinical practice approximately $15,700 a year for each full-time physician on staff.

“Multiplying that figure by an estimated 555,000 office-based physicians currently practicing and prescribing medications in the United States reveals an opportunity for e-prescribing to significantly reduce the estimated $8.7 billion worth of physician and staff time spent on the phone clarifying prescription information,” noted e-prescribing solutions provider SureScripts-RxHub.

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PHARMACY

Three patients using psoriasis drug developed deadly infection, FDA says

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. Three patients, and possibly one more, using a biotech drug for treating psoriasis developed a deadly viral infection of the brain, according to a Food and Drug Administration advisory.

The FDA said Thursday that three patients taking Genentech’s drug Raptiva (efalizumab) for more than three years developed progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy and died. One more may have developed the disease. None were receiving other treatments that suppress the immune system. 

In October, the labeling for Raptiva was revised to highlight in a boxed warning the risks of dangerous infections, including PML. The drug works by suppressing T-cells. 

PML results from an opportunistic infection by the JC virus, causing irreversible decline in brain function and death in people with severely weakened immune systems. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people carry the JC virus, though it is harmless to those with healthy immune systems. 

The agency is reviewing the reports and has said it will ensure that the risks of Raptiva do not outweigh its benefits, that patients receiving the drug are clearly informed of the signs and symptoms of PML and that healthcare professionals carefully monitor patients for possible development of the disease. 

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NACDS chairman Giancamilli urges Canadian retailers to unify

BY Jim Frederick

TORONTO In a deft display of cross-border diplomacy, National Association of Chain Drug Stores chairman Andy Giancamilli today made common cause with Canadian pharmacy operators while urging them to adopt some of the same grassroots lobbying strategies now wielded by their American counterparts.

Giancamilli, the Kmart and Perry Drug Stores veteran who is CEO of Canada’s largest drug store network, Katz Group North America, and its U.S. subsidiary, Minnesota-based Snyder’s Drug Stores, is no stranger to pharmacy and general merchandise retailing on either side of the border. Addressing the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Chain Drug Conference 2009 here this morning, he made good use of that dual-country perspective.

“It’s worth the dialogue to consider how each country can improve the health care of its citizens. And each country can learn from each other,” Giancamilli told CACDS members in an appearance that coincided with Pres. Barack Obama’s first trip to Canada since his inauguration last month.

Recapping the state of pharmacy retailing in the U.S., NACDS’ chairman told conference-goers that their American counterparts are staging an increasingly coordinated battle to educate policymakers and lawmakers on retail pharmacy’s concerns — and to win their support for pharmacy-friendly legislation and regulations.

“We are encouraging NACDS members to be the face of pharmacy in the minds of lawmakers,” Giancamilli said. “Just this month, NACDS launched RxIMPACT. This is the brand name for everything we do in the area of pharmacy tours for legislators, helping NACDS members write to their elected officials, arranging Congressional meetings for NACDS members in Washington DC, and more.

“RxIMPACT is the way for NACDS and allies to take a stand for better healthcare in a very personal way,” Giancamilli added. “Humbly, I would propose that CACDS and all provincial pharmacists’ associations replicate parts of RxIMPACT here.”

The chain pharmacy veteran said pharmacy owner/operators in Canada could benefit if they “engage more dialog with members of Parliament” through “grassroots communications and mobilization.”

Giancamilli acknowledged the global economic meltdown now dogging retailers on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, but reminded his listeners of some advice from Pres. John F. Kennedy. “When uncertainty and crisis appear, the words of President John F. Kennedy are many times cited,” Giancamilli said. “He said, ‘The Chinese use two brush strokes to write ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke for danger, the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.’

“That’s what were are here to do, and I say let’s go!” Giancamilli added.

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