PHARMACY

Pharmacist as ‘physician extender’ proves successful

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT CVS Caremark’s partnership with Polk County, Fla., and the implementation of a program to educate and motivate members to engage in their health care is clearly important on several different levels, including the fact that it scores the value of pharmacists’ intervention in disease management.

(THE NEWS: CVS Caremark, Polk County partnership demonstrates role of pharmacist intervention in improving diabetes outcomes. For the full story, click here)

As reported, the Polk County Contract for Care program requires members to be accountable for components of their care. Enrolled Polk County employees work with the CVS Caremark clinical pharmacist, located on-site at the County’s employee health clinic, to develop individualized care plans and coordinate regular follow-up. Enrolled members receive co-pay waivers on disease-related medications, as well as related supplies and non-prescription products.

The result: After one year, the program resulted in improvements in key clinical measurements for enrolled members — decreased glycosylated hemoglobin, a critical measurement of blood sugar levels, and lowered blood pressure levels — while also reducing emergency room visits and in-patient hospital admissions.

Similar to the now infamous Asheville Project, the Polk County Contract for Care program scores the value of pharmacist intervention in disease management from a health outcome/cost savings standpoint.

The Asheville Project began in 1996 as an effort by the city of Asheville, N.C., a self-insured employer, to provide education and personal oversight for employees with such chronic health problems as diabetes, asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol. It inspired a new health care model for individuals with chronic conditions.

Polk County implemented its Contract for Care program in February of 2005 and, at the end of the first year of the program, 477 members were enrolled and included in the analysis. Self-insured Polk County covers 8,500 Polk County employees and dependents.

The bottom line is that programs like Polk County Florida and the Asheville Project are a win-win situation — an obvious win for the patient and a win for community pharmacy. Having pharmacists serve such a vital role in helping patients manage their chronic conditions not only further elevates the industry to the front lines of the healthcare debate but also further advances pharmacists as "physician extenders."

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PHARMACY

FDA warns patients about asthma drug risks

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. Drugs belonging to the class called long-acting beta agonists should never be used alone for treating asthma in patients and should be combined with other asthma drugs, according to a new warning by the Food and Drug Administration, which is requiring that pharmaceutical manufacturers add the warning to the drugs’ product labels.

The FDA conducted an analysis of clinical trials showing that use of the drugs can increase risk of severe worsening of asthma symptoms, requiring children and adults to be hospitalized and sometimes resulting in death. Instead, the agency said, the drugs should be used only in combination with asthma controller medications such as inhaled corticosteroids, and should only be used long term in patients whose asthma is not adequately controlled by asthma controller medications, but should otherwise be used for the short term.

The drugs used in the analysis, also known as LABAs, include GlaxoSmithKline’s Serevent (salmeterol xinofoate) and Foradil (formoterol fumarate), made by Novartis and Schering-Plough Corp. –– now part of Merck & Co. –– as well as combination LABA-inhaled corticosteroid drugs such as AstraZeneca’s Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate) and GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol).

“Although these medicines play an important role in helping some patients control asthma symptoms, our review of the available clinical trials determined that their use should be limited, whenever possible, due to an increased risk of asthma exacerbations, hospitalizations and death,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Division of Pulmonary and Allergy Products director Badrul Chowdhury said.

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Walgreens named ‘innovative healthcare company’ by magazine

BY Allison Cerra

DEERFIELD, Ill. “Fast Company” magazine ranked one of the nation’s largest drug store chains among the most innovative companies in the healthcare industry.

Walgreens was recognized for leadership in healthcare services, transforming itself from a pure dispenser of drugs to a community health provider. From its national network of Take Care Clinics, to such health-and-wellness initiatives as chronic disease management program Walgreens Optimal Wellness, the company was highlighted alongside other healthcare innovators like Kaiser Permanente and Cisco. To create this year’s “Most Innovative Companies” issue, the magazine’s editorial team analyzed information on thousands of businesses across the globe and selected which companies defined the many forms of innovation that exist across the business landscape.

“We are thrilled to be named in the pages of ‘Fast Company’ among the world’s most innovative organizations,” said Colin Watts, Walgreen chief innovation officer. “To be recognized for our innovation in health care is especially gratifying as it validates the significant investment and progress we are making toward our goal of truly becoming a trusted community health provider and in making a measurable and important difference in our customers’ and patients’ lives.”

Added Walgreens EVP pharmacy Kermit Crawford, “We are creating an environment in which our nearly 70,000-strong healthcare providers can deliver the full extent of care their training and capabilities allow. In doing so, we are truly transforming Walgreens into a trusted healthcare provider to our customers and patients. Within pharmacy, this includes pharmacists interacting and counseling patients in new ways. Whether taking an active role in diabetes care or other chronic conditions, Walgreens will continue to lead the way in introducing new programs to care for customers and patients.”

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