Telepharmacy enables pharmacists to supervise techs remotely
Pharmacists are widely considered the most accessible healthcare professionals, and their expanded responsibilities have made this more true than ever before. In many parts of the country, however, especially remote and rural regions, even pharmacists can be about as easy to find as a cornfield in New York City. But technology is helping pharmacists provide services to rural areas by allowing them to remotely monitor pharmacy technicians, according to the country’s largest organization that certifies pharmacy techs.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board said telepharmacy allows a pharmacy tech to be supervised remotely in real time by a pharmacist and prepare prescriptions. Boards of pharmacy in several states have begun adopting regulations that allow for telepharmacy, including those in Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Idaho, Utah and Hawaii.
“Telepharmacy expands patient access to pharmacy consultations and vital healthcare services in rural and medically underserved areas,” PTCB executive director and CEO Everett McAllister said. “PTCB-certified pharmacy technicians play a significant role in this safe and cost-effective alternative, providing patients with maximum coverage.”
Recently, the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy adopted regulations that allow state-licensed pharmacists to electronically supervise one pharmacy technician or pharmacy student in a licensed pharmacy at a medical facility in the state, with the techs performing typical duties, such as reviewing cart fills and filling automated dispensing cabinets with the pharmacist observing the procedures through a real-time audio, video or computer connection.
New Drugs — Chain Pharmacy, 6/25/12
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a branded acne drug made by Ranbaxy Labs, the drug maker said. Ranbaxy announced the FDA approval of Absorica (isotretinoin), a drug for treating severe recalcitrant nodular acne. The company expects to launch it in the United States in fourth quarter 2012 under an agreement with Canada-based Cipher Pharmaceuticals.
“Absorica is a critical milestone in our commitment to serve the dermatology community and will be the flagship brand for Ranbaxy’s specialized dermatology sales force,” Ranbaxy SVP and regional director for the Americas Venkat Krishnan said.
A generic antiretroviral drug for treating HIV infection has won approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Mylan announced the approval of nevirapine tablets in the 200-mg strength. The drug is a generic version of Boehringer Ingelheim’s Viramune. Mylan began shipping the drug immediately after approval. Various versions of the drug had sales of $116.6 million during the 12-month period ended in March, according to IMS Health.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment for acne made by a GlaxoSmithKline subsidiary. Stiefel announced the approval of Fabior (tazarotene) foam in the 0.1% strength, calling it the only retinoid in a topical foam for treating acne in patients ages 12 years and older. “Stiefel is dedicated to meeting the needs of patients and dermatologists, and we believe Fabior foam will be an important treatment option for people with moderate to severe acne,” Stiefel VP North America dermatology Jean-Christophe May said.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a treatment for Type 1 diabetes in children ages 2 to 5 years. Drug maker Novo Nordisk announced the additional approval of Levemir (insulin detemir [rDNA origin]). The insulin already was approved for Type 1 diabetes in older children and adults and Type 2 diabetes in adults, and the drug maker said the new FDA approval made Levemir the only basal insulin analog for use in the 2- to 5-year age group.
Actavis has launched a generic drug for high blood pressure and chest pain, the company said. Actavis announced the launch of nifedipine extended-release tablets in the 90-mg strength, a generic version of Bayer’s Adalat CC. Various versions of the drug had sales of about $23 million in 2011, according to IMS Health.
Pharmacists play role in Wash. pertussis epidemic
Recently, a disease that was long a deadly scourge in the United States has resurfaced: whooping cough.
In April, public health authorities in Washington state declared an epidemic of the childhood disease, also known as pertussis, following a nearly tenfold increase in the number of cases. In May, the state Department of Health found 1,248 cases of the illness, compared with almost 130 at the same time last year. The staggering rise, producing numbers not seen since the 1940s, prompted Gov. Chris Gregoire to announce that emergency funding would be made available to the health department to try and curb the epidemic. The disease is particularly dangerous for infants, and about half of those younger than 1 year old require hospitalization. In light of the situation in Washington, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of federal money designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured.
There are many reasons for the epidemic, Washington state Department of Health communications director Tim Church told Drug Store News, but in many cases, kids are getting it from adults, who may not be aware that while childhood vaccinations against pertussis may protect against the disease for a while, they can also wear off over time. “That’s why we’re so intent on getting the word out that adults need to get vaccinated,” Church said. “There are far too few adults vaccinated against pertussis.”
Another reason is that the disease is cyclical, Church said; some years have few cases, and some have many. But in this instance, there are even more cases in Washington than there normally would be in a bad year.
Currently, Washington’s state health department offers vaccinations for children for free, and the CDC recommends that children get the Tdap vaccine at age 11. But adults, Church said, are largely on their own. Because Washington has one of the highest rates of parents opting out of getting their kids vaccinated before starting kindergarten, it was suggested in some media reports that it could be one of the reasons for the epidemic, though that remains uncertain.
With the state having limited resources to fight the epidemic, pharmacy retailers have an opportunity to step in where the state doesn’t. In the wake of the state’s declaration of an epidemic, Rite Aid and Walgreens announced the shipment of extra doses of the Tdap vaccine to their stores. Church said he had never seen retail pharmacies so actively promoting Tdap vaccines for adults. “We’ve been pleased with what’s been happening with pharmacies in Washington state,” Church said. “They’re promoting the whooping cough vaccine like never before.”
Pharmacy retailers, Church said, were in a good position to promote the vaccine. “Pharmacists are among the most trusted health providers out there, so we sure would love to see pharmacists ask people coming through if they’re aware there’s a whooping cough outbreak,” Church said. “If people hear those things from pharmacists, it’ll help get more people vaccinated. Retail pharmacies have a lot of resources we don’t have.”