Probiotics help gastric-bypass patients lose weight more quickly, Stanford study shows
STANFORD, Calif. New research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Stanford Hospital & Clinics suggested that the use of a dietary supplement after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery can help obese patients to more quickly lose weight and to avoid deficiency of a critical B vitamin.
In a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, John Morton, MD, associate professor of surgery at the medical school, showed that patients who take probiotics after the gastric-bypass procedure tend to shed more pounds than those who don’t take the supplements. Probiotics are the so-called “good” bacteria found in yogurt as well as in over-the-counter dietary supplements that help in the digestion of food.
“Surprisingly, the probiotic group attained a significantly greater percent of excess weight loss than that of control group,” said Morton, who wrote the paper with lead author Gavitt Woodard, a third-year medical student, and five other medical students at the Surgery Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation in Stanford’s Department of Surgery. Morton has performed more than 1,000 of these bypasses at Stanford Hospital & Clinics.
The researchers followed 44 patients on whom Morton had performed the procedure from 2006 to 2007. Patients were randomized into either a probiotic or a control group. Both groups received the same bariatric medical care and nutritional counseling, as well as the support of weight-loss study groups. Both groups also were allowed to consume yogurt, a natural source of probiotics. In addition, the probiotic group consumed one pill per day of Puritan’s Pride, a probiotic supplement that is available online and in many stores. Morton has no financial ties to the company that makes the supplement.
The study showed that at three months, the probiotics group registered a 47.6% weight loss, compared with a 38.5% for the control group.
The study also found that levels of vitamin B-12 were higher in the patients taking probiotics — a significant finding because patients often are deficient in B-12 after gastric-bypass surgery. The probiotics group had B-12 levels of 1,214 picograms per milliliter at three months, compared with the control group’s levels of 811 pg/mL.
There was no outside funding for the study.
Senate panel votes in favor of healthcare reform bill
NEW YORK After decades of fruitless efforts, activist lawmakers in a Democratically controlled Congress finally may be on the verge of pushing through one of the most elusive policy goals of the past half-century: a massive reform of the U.S. healthcare system that aims to extend health coverage to most Americans and put a clamp on federal healthcare spending.
That bill, the Affordable Health Care Choice Act of 2009, is a long way from passage. Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee object to several key provisions in the bill – including language that would impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay the bill’s estimated trillion-dollar 10-year tab, a new government-run insurance provider to compete with private-sector insurers and a provision that would penalize employers who don’t offer health benefits to their workers – and that opposition is sure to play out when the House of Representatives and the full Senate debate the measure in coming days.
Nevertheless, even staunch conservative lawmakers acknowledged that the climate for health reform is ripe. Spurred by public alarm over the rising cost of health care and dire projections about the future of Medicare and Medicaid, the Obama administration and the President’s allies in Congress have made overhauling the healthcare system a top legislative priority, and are pushing for fast-track passage of a bill before the end of the current session.
It’s too soon to tell just what impact the bill would have on some of the biggest issues of concern to retail pharmacy, such as Medicaid reimbursement. But concerns over costs and employer mandates aside, chain and independent pharmacy advocates have found much to like in the Affordable Health Care Choice Act.
As envisioned by HELP Committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, the bill, if passed in its current form, would advance the concept of pharmacy care, elevate the role of pharmacists as patient-focused community health practitioners and exempt retail pharmacies from accreditation requirements for the sale of durable medical equipment, a cause long sought by pharmacy leaders.
Needless to say, the bill also would swell the roles of prescription drug customers by expanding affordable coverage to most of the estimated 45 million to 50 million uninsured Americans.
Among the pharmacy-friendly provisions championed by Kennedy and other supporters of the bill:
- The establishment of community health teams to set up the “medical home” model of individualized health care for patients – a model that could include retail pharmacies as “homes;”
- Funding of a pioneering grant program to implement medication therapy management for the treatment of chronic diseases;
- Greater incentives to spur generic drug switching and the adoption of health information technology;
- A greater emphasis on disease prevention through healthier lifestyle and nutrition, and closer coordination between health counselors (including pharmacists, presumably) and patients; and
- The creation of an approval pathway for biogenerics at the Food and Drug Administration.
CVS Caremark to open Customer Care Center
NEW YORK Here’s a look at how the future of pharmacy is going to work …
The fact that CVS Caremark is preparing to open its first Pharmacy Customer Care Center is important because it appears as though the two biggest players in pharmacy — the other being Walgreens — are setting their sights on extracting much of the busy work out of the stores in an effort to free up the in-store pharmacy teams to perform more of the medication therapy management, disease management and other more high-touch services that will come to define pharmacy care in the future.
As explained by Larry Merlo, president of CVS/pharmacy, the Woonsocket, R.I.-based pharmacy retailer is opening the new facility and launching the new pharmacy service program to “enhance the service provided to individuals who call our pharmacies, as well as to provide more time for our pharmacy teams to spend serving customers in our stores.”
The move is in a similar vein to that of Walgreens’ “POWER” initiative. As previously reported by Drug Store News, POWER is aimed at offloading and centralizing some prescription dispensing duties in Walgreens’ pharmacies. The goal: to ease up pharmacists and workloads, reduce staffing costs and give its pharmacy professionals more time to consult with patients. The workload-balancing project offloads dispensing duties from individual Walgreens pharmacists to centralized processing centers. Company leaders predicted the project will free pharmacists and even pharmacy technicians from some of the mundane dispensing tasks so they can migrate to a broader role in patient oversight, clinical care and integrated health care alongside physicians, PBMs and corporate health plan sponsors.
As of late May, Walgreens’ POWER project had shifted script dispensing functions for more than half the company’s nearly 800 stores in Florida, and some 100 of its 238 stores in Arizona.
It is likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that the industry will see more of these types of programs and initiatives as retail pharmacy further digs its heels into the U.S. healthcare system and continues its evolution into a broad-reaching healthcare provider.