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PCS Healthcare was grateful to network pharmacists who came to the rescue when a New Year's Eve computer glitch erroneously kicked 96,000 federal employees and retirees off the beneficiary rolls. Pharmacists alerted PCS to the problem and then in many cases gave patients a small supply of their medication to tide them over. The problem stemmed from PCS' failure to update the multi-year eligibility file of its client, Blue Cross/Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan. It took the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based PBM 20 hours to correct the problem in 3.5 million files. PCS spokesman Blair Jackson thanked network R.Ph.s for their help in ensuring that no patients went away empty-handed.

Florida Board adopts CQI rule

The Florida pharmacy board has become the first to take a continuous quality improvement approach to medication errors. A new rule stipulates that each pharmacy must set up a CQI committee to record and periodically examine Rx errors and come up with ways to prevent them. The rule will become effective Oct. 1, if the state legislature acts to include pharmacies in regulations that protect CQI committees from civil and administrative litigation, said John Taylor, pharmacy board executive director.

Docs and R.Phs warned about serious complication from Singulair

Merck has recently written letters to doctors and pharmacists, alerting them to a potentially serious complication, called Churg-Strauss syndrome, in asthma patients taking the antileukotriene drug Singulair (montelukast). Signs of the condition include flulike symptoms, rash, tingling or numbness in the extremities, and severe sinusitis. While the manufacturer has received reports of patients developing the complication after taking the drug, it claims that there is no proof that montelukast is the cause of it. Many of the sufferers were being weaned off corticosteroids at the time, which is known to be a risk factor for the syndrome. However, Merck has revised the product's labeling to include a caution about Churg-Strauss.

Xeloda covered under Medicare

According to a recent ruling issued by the Department of Health & Human Services, Xeloda (capecitabine, Hoffmann-La Roche), an antineoplastic agent recently approved for late-stage metastatic breast cancer, will now be reimbursed by Medicare. The drug can potentially be used in an estimated 36,000 women aged 65 and over who are currently living with metastatic breast cancer. Capecitabine is to be used in those whose tumors are resistant to standard chemotherapy with paclitaxel and an anthracycline-containing regimen.

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