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Pharmacists to be vaccinators, educators

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK —While residents of the Southern Hemisphere begin to bask in the warmth of spring, their counterparts here up north are entering the colder parts of the year, and along with that, the flu season. Adding to the usual problem of seasonal flu is the A-H1N1 swine flu, which the World Health Organization earlier this year declared the first pandemic flu since 1968.

As supplies of H1N1 vaccine have begun percolating into various states, pharmacists have prepared themselves for the flood of sick and worried patients, including parents feeling skittish about whether or not to vaccinate their children.

“A pharmacist in the healthcare community is an expert on medications and an expert on vaccines, and should be looked at by parents as a source of information and education so that they’re better able to make health-care decisions for themselves and their families,” National Association of Chain Drug Stores SVP pharmacy and NACDS Foundation president Edith Rosato told Drug Store News.

According to a poll by the Associated Press, one-third of parents are against getting their children vaccinated. The poll follows rumors that surfaced last year that flu vaccines would cause autism in children.

“Whenever there’s a new prescription drug product, there’s probably a certain amount of apprehension,” Rosato said. “People tend to talk, and a lot of times, parents get opinions by word of mouth.”

Pharmacists can deliver vaccinations throughout the country, and though regulations vary from state to state, most can give flu vaccinations, Rosato said. But they also can educate patients about proper use of such medications as antibiotics. A lot of patients have a habit of taking antibiotics to treat such viral infections as cold and flu, a practice that has been blamed for the rise of such antibiotic-resistant “super-bugs” as MRSA, a deadly strain of staphylococcus. According to the WHO, about 50% of antibiotics used are unnecessary or overused.

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched its Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, which took place Oct. 5 to Oct. 11, and included a campaign of print and broadcast ads and an effort to recruit pharmacists. “This is a very important campaign and really presents a wonderful opportunity for pharmacists in the community,” Rosato said.

Some retail pharmacies long have sought to educate patients on proper use of antibiotics. “In our pharmacies, you’ll see pharmacists not recommending the use of antibiotics, and also not particularly recommending the use of antivirals unless [patients] have more severe symptoms,” Aurora Pharmacy pharmacist Sarah Ray told Drug Store News.

Aurora Pharmacy, part of the Milwaukee-based nonprofit Aurora Health Care system, also has launched an educational campaign about flu, including the informational Web site www.aurora.org/flu. “I think pharmacists are in a good position to educate patients, and that we can be a player, whether we are giving the vaccine or supporting our healthcare providers in terms of educating patients,” Ray said.

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Hy-Vee celebrates the other white meat

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa A lot of people complain about pork barrel spending, but not Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee.

October is National Pork Month, and the West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee announced Friday that sales of the meat have increased more than 25% over October 2008. The chain said it was on track to increase pork tonnage by more than 30%.

 

“With pork prices the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade, we’ve focused our marketing efforts on promoting pork as a great value for consumers,” Hy-Vee assistant VP meat operations Kenan Judge said in a statement. “Today’s shopper is looking for nutritious, economical meal ideas, and pork perfectly fits the bill.”

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Patients prefer new diabetes drug Victoza over its competitor, survey finds

BY Alaric DeArment

MONTREAL A new diabetes drug satisfied patients more than its competitor, according to a study funded by the drug’s manufacturer.

According to data on 379 patients who took the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaires, presented Thursday at the 20th World Diabetes Congress and published in medical journal The Lancet, patients taking Novo Nordisk’s drug Victoza (liraglutide) perceived less abnormally low or high blood sugar levels — known respectively as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia — than those taking Byetta (exenatide), made by Eli Lilly & Co., Amylin Corp. and Alkermes.

Victoza is approved in Europe, but Novo Nordisk is still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.

“Liraglutide has shown here in a convincing study that it is associated with less nausea, less perceived hypoglycemia and definitely higher patient satisfaction compared to exenatide,” principal investigator Wolfgang Schmidt said in a statement. “Patient-reported outcomes data is an important extension of the efficacy data. If a patient is satisfied with his or her treatment, then they are much more likely to really stick to the treatment over the long term, which is necessary in Type 2 diabetes.”

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