PHARMACY

WAG VP talks to Chicago Tribune about changing role of pharmacist

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — New federal and state regulations are expanding the role of the pharmacist, noted Richard Ashworth, Walgreens VP pharmacy services, during a live “Health Chat” hosted by Chicago Tribune reporter Bruce Japsen on Thursday afternoon. And that’s of benefit to patients at large, especially as “community pharmacy is located in the local communities and [is] a natural extension of the healthcare system,” Ashworth wrote.

Ashworth and Jaspen discussed the expanding role of the pharmacist and other retail healthcare professionals, such as the nurse practitioner, in today’s consumer medical care model over the hour-long Web presentation. “Coordinating care is an important aspect of the future of the healthcare system,” Ashworth noted, addressing a question on how pharmacists and NPs can coordinate care to optimize patient outcomes. “We are able to connect with physicians and pharmacies in a manner that ensures patient care and positive outcomes,” he said.

Further, the roles of the pharmacist and nurse practitioner complement one another. “The NP and [physician assistants] provide diagnosis and treatment regimens, where the pharmacists provide medications and counseling,” Ashworth noted. “The potential area for overlap would be around wellness and prevention activities — I view these as complementary and ensuring appropriate access to the patient population.”

One popular extension of the pharmacist’s role in healthcare delivery today is immunizations, such as the flu shot. But the full range of services a pharmacist can offer go well beyond that, Ashworth suggested. “I think about areas that are natural extensions of what a pharmacist does today,” he wrote. “Immunizations, health screenings, disease state management and monitoring, medication therapy management, health education, wellness activities/coaching, as well as other ancillary services, like bone density scans and light laboratory services.”

Another important profession developing within the retail pharmacy setting is the pharmacy technician, Ashworth said, responding to a question on the future role of pharmacy technicians. “Pharmacy technicians are one of the most important folks in our community pharmacies today,” he wrote. “Their abilities and empathy toward our patients, not to mention the complexities around billing and payments, are vital for the patient experience."

An archive of the chat session can be found here.

Ashworth joined Walgreens in 1992 as a service clerk and rose through the ranks of store management before becoming a pharmacy manager in 1999. By 2003, he was a store manager and was promoted to district manager in 2005. In 2007, he became VP benefit management services for Walgreens Health Services. He earned his pharmacy degree from Nova Southeastern University in 1999, and his MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2004.

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Report: Pfizer recalls Embeda

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Pfizer is recalling a painkiller drug it acquired when it bought King Pharmaceuticals due to problems with a chemical used to deter drug abuse, according to a published report.

Reuters reported that Pfizer had recalled supplies of Embeda (morphine sulfate and naltrexone hydrochloride) because the chemical that prevents the drug from being ground up or dissolved by drug abusers — naltrexone — had deteriorated in samples of the drug that Pfizer had tested.

The drug has sales of less than $70 million per year, according to Reuters.

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NACDS responds to report on integrity of pharmaceutical supply chain

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Commenting on a counterfeit pharmaceutical inter-agency working group report, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores stressed that it shares the goal of improving the public awareness of the risks posed from counterfeit drugs and unlawful online drug sellers, but expressed concern over the report’s proposal to mandate a "track-and-trace" system in the United States, given the high cost it could pose for pharmacies.

NACDS’ comments on the report come on the heels of a "60 Minutes" segment that aired Sunday evening that revealed the harsh reality of drug counterfeiting.

The report was prepared by the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Departments of Justice, State, Commerce and the Agency for International Development on counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The report discusses a number of issues and efforts to combat counterfeit drugs, including importation, ports of entry, international law enforcement efforts and partnerships, international public awareness campaigns, and others.

"The report recognizes that there are thousands of illegal websites that sell unapproved or counterfeit drugs without a valid prescription, which pose a threat to patient health. We also welcome the report’s support for the private sector initiative that would share information on the illicit websites, fund educational campaigns, establish a list of legitimate online pharmacies and share information with law enforcement," stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.

"NACDS has been engaged in federal and state policy initiatives to further safeguard the supply chain," Anderson continued. "The association advocated for legislation enacted in 2008 that cracks down on rogue online pharmacies, and distinguishes between such sites and legitimate sites operated by licensed pharmacies. NACDS also helped to enact state legislation that strengthened wholesale distributor licensure requirements and increased penalties for intentional distribution of counterfeit drugs."

"NACDS does not support the report’s proposal to mandate a ‘track and trace’ system in the [United States]," Anderson noted. "The operational processes surrounding a mandated ‘track and trace’ system are still under development and cannot achieve their desired purpose at this time, which will prove extraordinarily costly for pharmacies and other supply chain operators."

The comments come on the heels of a "60 Minutes" segment during which Kumar Kibble, deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said, "Fake drugs are a big threat and an exploding threat."

Kibble, who tracks counterfeit drugs from their source in clandestine labs around the world to the United States, where they’re typically sold online through rogue pharmacy sites, told "60 Minutes" that increasingly, traditional criminal groups, including many once involved in illegal drug trafficking, are shifting operations to take advantage of the low-risk/high-reward economics of the counterfeit drug trade — a $75 billion-a-year industry, according to estimates.

The "60 Minutes" segment came as no surprise to Drug Store News, which has argued for many years that drug counterfeiting is the key reason lawmakers need to forget the recurring pipe dream they share that rogue Internet sites and drug reimportation is a legitimate solution to rising healthcare costs.

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