PTCB names Pharmacy Technician of the Year
WASHINGTON — The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board on Friday announced that it had names Hortense Jones of Durham, N.C., its 2015 Pharmacy Technician of the Year.
Jones works at Durham’s Lincoln Community Health Center (part of the Duke University Health System) as the pharmacy technician supervisor, where she oversees a team of 11 pharmacy technicians who process mor than 1,000 prescriptions on a daily basis for some 30,0000 medically underserved patients.
“I am truly humbled by this honor, but this is about our pharmacy team more than me,” Jones said. “My leadership philosophy is to find the strengths of each employee and build an essential role for them on the team that matches their assets. As a result, they become fully engaged in advancing patient safety."
Jones works to ensure that the LCHC’s patients — 55% of whom are uninsured, 28% of whom are in Medicaid and 59% of whome live at or below the federal poverty level — have access to care, coordinating medcation access with Durham County’s Project Access. She also crated a training program for her team that involved them experiencing the pharmacy from a patient’s perspective.
“Hortense is amazing. She grows and changes with the complexity of health care," pharmacy director Carolyn Robbins said. “She has a remarkable ability to build and engage her team. She embraces new practices, new processing systems, and critical roles for technicians in health care.”
In addition to her work at the LCHC, Jones is also a member of the Durham Technical Community College’s pharmacy technology program. She also worked to help get the program accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacies and coordinates the college’s training program at LCHC.
“[Pharmacy technicians] can advance their careers by continually engaging in knowledge. They need to get involved, serve on boards, and learn about legislation and programs that have an impact on patients," Jones said. “They need to be persistent too. If they think something can be done to assist a patient, they need to speak up, and work with their team to get it done.”
First biosimilar paves way for future launches
Last month’s launch of the first generic biologic drug in the United States is the first step in a movement that some say could drive down the nation’s healthcare bill and bring new treatment options to thousands of patients across the country.
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“The approval of biosimilar and interchangeable biologic products will create the competition to significantly lower costs for patients, providers and the whole healthcare system,” the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s Biosimilars Council said in “The Next Frontier for Improved Access to Medicines: Biosimilars and Interchangeable Biologic Products,” a recently published handbook that looks at the impact these complex new drugs will have on American health care.
“Just as generic competition has reduced the prices of traditional prescription drugs, biosimilars and interchangeable biologic products will create the market dynamics needed to lower the cost of biologics and provide patients alternatives,” the council said.
Biologics — already widely approved in Europe and other countries — are injectable drugs made from proteins grown in living cells that are nourished in nutrient broths inside sterile bioreactor tanks. They have been show to provide better long-term outcomes with fewer side effects than many traditional medications. For patients, this often results in quicker recovery times and a reduction in the number of additional treatments needed.
The potential these drugs have to revolutionize patient care has led to a flurry of activity by pharmaceutical companies to develop more biologics and spurred generic drug makers to begin developing their own versions of these medications.
According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, there currently are more than 900 new biologics in development, targeting more than 100 diseases. Meanwhile, GPhA noted that in the next few years the patents on many of the earliest biologic medicines will expire, opening the door for more generic companies to enter into this area.
With more biosimilars expected to become available in the next few years, federal regulators and generic drug makers continue to grapple with how these medications will be marketed.
In August, the Food and Drug Administration proposed identifying biosimilars with a four-letter suffix to distinguish them from the brand name versions of these same drugs. The agency said the move would prevent the inadvertent substitution of non-interchangeable products and make it easier to monitor and track usage once the products are on the market.
Generic companies, however, said there is no need for a suffix on biosimilars.
“Adding a random collection of letters to the product’s nonproprietary name confers no additional safety benefit, and in fact would require the healthcare professional to be armed at all times with a code-breaking reference,” Biosimilars Council chairman and Pfenex CEO Bertrand Liang said in a statement released the day after the FDA released its proposal.