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Elderly need pneumonia shots

Pharmacists offering vaccination services may want to answer a call by doctors with the CDC for pneumonia vaccinations of the elderly in nursing homes. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers concluded that an outbreak of drug-resistant pneumonia that killed three residents of an Oklahoma nursing home in 1996 underscored the need for vaccination. Nationwide, only about 30% of people over age 65 have been vaccinated against pneumonia.

Continuity-of-care bill passed in California

California pharmacists were successful in gaining approval of a new continuity-of-care law; Gov. Pete Wilson signed Assembly Bill 974 into law late last month. A.B. 974 mandates that health plans continue to cover branded drugs on which a patient already is established in the event that the product is removed from the health plan's formulary. The bill was sponsored by the California Pharmacists Association and cosponsored by the California Medical Association. CPhA said the new law will lower overall health-care costs by keeping patients healthy, reducing repeat visits to physicians' offices, and eliminating emergency room admissions.

Kmart program offers toll-free pharmacy number

Advice from pharmacists will be just a free phone call away for summer vacation travelers, thanks to a national campaign by Kmart Corp. and McNeil Consumer Products Co. Travel Smart with the Pharmacy at Kmart provides consumers with a toll-free number that connects them with a Kmart pharmacist if health issues arise while they're away from home. Pharmacists will also provide travelers with advice before their vacation, counseling them on prevention of common travel ailments and on what to pack in their travel health kit. Kmart stores will feature special displays for Imodium Advanced, an over-the-counter antidiarrheal/antigas medication manufactured by McNeil, along with free travel health materials.

Mylan to buy Penederm

The generic drug firm, Mylan Laboratories Inc., agreed to acquire Penederm Inc., a Foster City, Calif., firm that develops and markets topical Rx products. The deal is worth about $205 million, based on the closing price of Mylan stock as of June 23. The two firms' combined product line will include seven proprietary products, which will be marketed through Bertek Pharmaceuticals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mylan.

Zinc study questions efficacy

Lower-dosage zinc lozenges were found ineffective against cold symptoms in children and teenagers in a recent study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and published June 24 in the ÆMDULØJournal of the American Medical Association. The Quigley Foundation, which funded the study, said it intends to repeat the low-dosage zinc gluconate glycine study at another facility, citing 129 protocol deviations involving at least 83 of the 249 patients enrolled. A previous study of the firm's Cold-Eeze zinc gluconate glycine lozenge reported a 42% reduction in the duration and severity of common cold symptoms among adults. Michael L. Macknin, M.D., a Cleveland Clinic pediatrician who conducted both studies, speculated that the 10 mg of zinc used in the recent study may have been too small or the cherry flavoring somehow inactivated the zinc.

Natural supplement training program offered

New natural supplement training courses for pharmacists, clerks, and community outreach programs will be unveiled at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Marketplace conference in Philadelphia, June 28-July 1. The goal of the training, developed by the Dietary Supplement Institute, is to help R.Ph.s and other personnel develop the knowledge and consultation skills to help consumers make appropriate natural supplement choices. The Supplement Specialist training programs are available in both live sessions and home study formats. Courses have been accredited so pharmacists who successfully complete the curriculum can earn continuing education credits.

Kaiser Permanente to drop coverage of Viagra

Kaiser Permanente has decided to exclude coverage of Viagra (sildenafil, Pfizer) when renewing benefits contracts. Large purchasers, however, will be offered an optional supplemental benefit for coverage of sildenafil and other drugs for sexual dysfunction. Kaiser Permanente estimates that national coverage of 10 sildenafil pills per month would cost it at least $100 million per year; by comparison, in 1997 the company spent $59 million to cover all antiviral drugs, including protease inhibitors for treatment of HIV.

Lucky customers shopped 'free' at Longs

Customers who shopped Longs Drug Stores in Colorado on May 11 got a nice bonus for their patronage: They were reimbursed for the sum of their purchases in the form of a rebate from the company. Free Shopping Day was created to increase sales and bring customers into Longs locations in Colorado. Customers in all Longs stores in Colorado were instructed to save register receipts for all purchases made during the month of May. On Monday, June 1, a Longs representative spun a "prize wheel" to determine what date in May would be designated as the Free Shopping Day; the wheel stopped on May 11, so customers with Longs' receipts dated May 11 qualified for a refund on purchases made that day. The company has not decided whether to hold similar programs in the future.

Medicare patient protections issued

HCFA has issued new rules to protect Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in managed care plans. They include direct access by women to women's health specialists in the network for routine and preventive care, a ban against plans discouraging sick people from enrolling, medical record privacy protections, a prohibition against restrictions on M.D.-patient communications, a restriction on prior-authorization requirements when a beneficiary is out of the managed care plan's service area, and coverage of emergency room treatments that a "prudent layperson" would regard as an emergency.

New drug approved for pulmonary TB

Priftin (rifapentine), a new antimicrobial, has just been approved for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Manufactured by Hoechst Marion Roussel, the drug must always be used in conjunction with at least one other anti-TB agent to which ÆMDULØMycobacterium tuberculosis is susceptible. The drug may reduce the number of pills a patient must take to eradicate this infectious disease. Rifapentine should be administered twice weekly for two months during the intensive phase of the short-course treatment of pulmonary TB. During the continuation phase, the new drug should be administered once a week and continued for four months.

Duract pulled from market due to hepatic complications

Duract (bromfenac sodium), a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic indicated for short-term management of acute pain, has been voluntarily withdrawn by its manufacturer, Wyeth-Ayerst Labs. The action was based on post-marketing reports of severe hepatic failure resulting in four deaths and eight liver transplants. All but one of those 12 cases involved patients using the drug for longer than 10 days--the maximum recommended duration of treatment. Wyeth has sent letters of notification to more than 600,000 health-care professionals, advising them to stop prescribing and dispensing bromfenac immediately. In addition, they are being urged to consider contacting patients who may be using the product for more than 10 days or who have a history of liver disease. Wyeth is not currently planning to pay health-care professionals a fee for these services.

Recombinant glucagon cleared as hypoglycemia diagnostic/treatment

GlucaGen [glucagon (rDNA origin) for injection] has been approved for use as a diagnostic aid during radiological examinations and for the treatment of severe hypoglycemia in diabetic patients treated with insulin. Manufactured By Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals, the recombinant product, which is chemically identical to human glucagon, is known to cause the liver to release glucose by stimulating conversion of glycogen to glucose. As a diagnostic agent, GlucaGen improves the quality of images viewed during radiological exams by inhibiting GI motility.

Posicor interactions still haunt patients after market withdrawal

According to four case reports that will be published in next month's Journal of the American Medical Association, patients taking Posicor (mibefradil)--an antihypertensive withdrawn from the market due to harmful drug interactions--went into shock within 12 hours after their physicians switched them to other calcium-channel blockers. One patient reportedly died as a result, and the other three survived after intensive hospital treatments. Researchers say that because of the long half-life of mibefradil (17 to 25 hours), patients may require a prolonged washout period before starting therapy with other antihypertensive drugs as well as many other medications metabolized by the liver enzymes, which are inhibited by mibefradil.

The Hormone Foundation offers list of estrogen alternatives

A new consensus statement, sponsored by the Hormone Foundation, has identified five types of treatments that can serve as estrogen alternatives for breast cancer survivors and women who are fearful of hormone replacement therapy. The drug classes, which are used to directly treat estrogen deficiency symptoms, are:

  • Antiresorptive agents, used to prevent osteoporosis
  • HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, used to lower the risk of heart disease
  • SSRIs, used to treat depression and mood swings associated with postmenopausal women
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators, used to mimic effects of estrogen on bone, but not on the breast or uterus
  • Other various treatments, used to treat specific postmenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

McKesson-Premier ink unprecedented deal

McKesson Corp. and Premier Inc. have signed a series of agreements that will create a comprehensive supply management partnership that will serve Premier hospitals, health systems, and alternate care sites nationwide. Under a five-year agreement, Premier Purchasing Partners, Premier's group purchasing arm, has contracted with McKesson to supply Premier entities with pharmaceuticals, medical-surgical products, and Robot-Rx pharmacy automation technology. In a separate deal, McKesson General signed an unprecedented, 20-year agreement to supply medical-surgical and pharmaceuticals to physician office practices and other non-acute sites within Premier's alliance under its Provider Select Program.

 

 

 
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