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Study attempts to clear the air about Rx pill dust dangers

BY Jim Frederick

DREXEL, Mo. —Does the air in a typical pharmacy pose a risk to employees?

That was the question raised by a research team that looked at the air quality in some U.S. pharmacies for an industry-sponsored report. The study’s aim: to assess the potential health risks to pharmacy staff and customers arising from airborne pill dust generated by the dispensing process, and particularly by robotic dispensing systems.

The research was conducted by Missouri-based AlburtyLab, and was funded by Script-Pro. Perhaps not surprisingly, ScriptPro was given high marks by researchers, who found that the company’s robotic dispensing machines emitted no detectable concentrations of airborne pill dust during the dispensing process.

On the other hand, researchers did find fault with dispensing robots using compressed air or vacuum pressure to dispense pills. Those systems, they concluded, generated “an increase in the concentration of airborne respirable particles” during their operation in the pharmacies where air samples were taken.

Even pharmacies that did not use a robotic dispensing system were found to produce slightly higher concentrations of airborne pill dust during the mechanical dispensing process, the report added.

The study focused on tiny, “respirable” drug-compound dust particles that are less than 2.5 microns in size—invisible to the naked eye and found in the air of some pharmacies in the study. In their report, researchers called them “of special concern…because the small size of PM-2.5 particles allows them to penetrate to the deepest parts of the lungs and to be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

“Our research indicates that there is no defined safe level for these types of particles,” the report stated. “Secondly, most of the drug compounds dispensed in pharmacies are not designed to be inhaled.”

In urban settings, the researchers noted, high concentrations of these absorbable particles in the air “have been shown to cause adverse health effects. Generally it is believed that the risk of exposure to indoor air emissions is increased by a factor of 10 for each of the following: proximity, constant exposure and constrained dispersion.

“Because typical heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems use loose-weave air filters that are approximately 40 percent efficient for removal of particles with an AD of 0.2 microns, very fine pill dust can be recirculated throughout the pharmacy…”

That conclusion points to installing better filters in the pharmacy’s heating and air conditioning vents as a possible solution.

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Sturken to celebrate his fifth year at Spartan by ringing NASDAQ bell

BY Michael Johnsen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Spartan Stores’ chairman and chief executive officer Craig Sturken is slated to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on March 3 in celebration of his fifth anniversary leading Spartan, the company announced Thursday.

 “It is an honor to ring the opening NASDAQ bell in celebration of our fifth successful year since transforming into a consumer-centric organization and refocusing our business on our core distribution and retail operations,” Sturken stated. “We have been in the grocery business for more than 90 years and this is our eighth year as a public company, which is marked by our ability to develop and execute successful business strategies in a highly competitive market.”

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Unilever to reorganize company structure

BY Antoinette Alexander

LONDON Unilever, whose brands include Axe, Sunsilk and Dove, has announced that it is restructuring the company and combining its home and personal care segment and food segment into a single category structure.

Ralph Kugler, president of home and personal care, will step down in May at the Annual General Meetings after 29 years of service. The roles of president of home and personal care and president of foods will be merged under the leadership of Vindi Banga, currently president of foods.

To reflect the company’s focus on growth in developing markets, Central and Eastern Europe will be managed within an enlarged region comprised of Asia, Africa and Central and Eastern Europe. Western Europe will become a standalone region.

In other moves, Kees van der Graaf will retire in May from the Unilever board and from his role as president of Europe after a 32-year career with Unilever.

Harish Manwani, currently president of Asia/Africa, will lead the new expanded region. Doug Baillie will serve as president of Western Europe, having previously served as chief executive officer of Hindustan Unilever.

“These measures build naturally on the changes of recent years and give us an organizational structure even better placed to advance our growth agenda. At the same time, I want to express my deep appreciation to Kees and Ralph for the significant contribution they have made over long and distinguished years,” stated Patrick Cescau, group chief executive.

In addition, James Lawrence, currently chief financial officer, will be proposed in May for election as an executive director of Unilever. This change will mean that the Unilever board will be comprised of two executive directors and 11 non-executives.

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