immunization changes for 2018 - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Samantha McKinnon, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

With flu season right around the corner, what better time to talk about vaccines than right now?  We talk and hear about vaccines a lot, but what exactly is a vaccine, and which vaccine is right for you?

What is a vaccine?

In the simplest terms, a vaccine is medicine created from weakened or dead disease-causing germs given to you to help prevent you from getting sick or prepare your body in case you are infected.1 Vaccines can be created using different strategies, depending on who the vaccine is intended for and what disease is trying to be prevented.  There are live, inactivated, recombinant and toxoid vaccines; each serves a different purpose and treats a different germ.1 The way they work is to expose you to a small and safe amount of the germ so your body will recognize it in the future by creating antibodies.  Antibodies are what allow your body to fight off infections or you experience a much milder version of the illness.2   You may sometimes see terminology like “trivalent” or “quadrivalent” when you’re looking at different flu vaccines.3 Trivalent vaccines contain three different strains of virus whereas quadrivalent vaccines contain four different strains of virus.  There also “high-dose” flu vaccine formulations, these formulations contain extra amount of virus material to help people create more antibodies.1

Live vaccines

Live vaccines are also called sometimes called “attenuated” – which is a fancy term for “weakened”. Some examples of live vaccines you or children may have received would be measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), chickenpox or even smallpox.  Live vaccines take the entire virus and weaken it so that it can’t get you as sick as the regular beefed-up virus.  Imagine you have two runners getting ready to run a marathon, but one of the runners has 20-pound boots on, who will win the race?  It’s going to be much harder for the runner with boots to cross the finish line, this is essentially what attenuating viruses do.  Live vaccines do come with some risks, especially to people with weaker immune systems such as someone that had an organ transplant or someone with cancer.

Inactivated vaccines

Vaccines that inactivate the virus also use the entire virus but instead of being weakened like a live vaccine, it is completely dead.  Inactivated vaccines are the typical flu shots, polio and rabies.  Because these germs are completely dead you will not get sick, but this means you will also not be immune and need more frequent shots.3 This is one reason for an annual flu shot.

Recombinant vaccines

Recombinant is technical term that basically means mixed up, it would be like switching some letters around in the alphabet to be CBADEFG instead of ABCDEFG, it’s still the alphabet but not in the exact order it used to be.  These vaccines use only very specific pieces of the germ, a “target”, which will create a strong response in the person receiving the shot.  The bonus is that the vaccine does not have the entire germ, so you won’t get sick and they can be used on more people than live or inactivated vaccines – a big plus for patients with weaker immune systems.  Some recombinant vaccines currently used are for Hepatitis B, meningitis, shingles and whooping cough.

What changed for this year?

Now that you know about all the different kinds of vaccines we can talk about the new changes for this year.  Besides the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there is also another government body called The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that provides recommendations for what immunizations are needed and when.  Previous flu seasons did not have very good coverage against H1N1 so live viruses were not recommended for children.  That has changed this year, ACIP has recommended that eligible patients receive the FluMist intranasal spray, a live attenuated vaccine, this is good news for parents and kids as there is no needle and no shot.4 The recombinant flu shot called Flublok is recommended for pregnant women. For the older population there has been a change to the zoster vaccination recommendation.  ACIP recommends the recombinant Shingrix vaccine for prevention of shingles in adults over the age of 50.4 Shingrix is a two-dose vaccine just like the previous shingles vaccination Zostavax but has been found to be more effective than Zostavax, most especially in patients over the age of 80.5 The final changed recommendation is in regard to the live MMR vaccine.  Traditionally it has been a two-dose vaccine and that covered you for life.  With recent measles outbreaks, patients living in an area with an outbreak are recommended to receive a third dose of MMR.5

What vaccine is right for you?

The CDC releases an immunization schedule for all patient populations and revises it as new evidence comes to light.  The recommendations from ACIP have allowed the CDC to release a newly revised immunization schedule effective for 2018.  Based on your age and your health you may get different versions of vaccines or vaccinated at different times in your life than other people.  Your provider or pharmacist would be happy to let you know which vaccines are right for you and when, since some vaccines are age-specific.  It is especially important to let health professionals treating you know your health status and social history such as if you smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, if you’ve recently been sick or had a fever, what kind of environment you work in, if you’ll be around newborns or elderly people, your HIV status or if you have liver problems or blood factor issues as well as any allergies.  If you travel outside of the US, especially to an area that requires you to use antivirals, let your prescriber know as this may affect your vaccinations.  Some countries also require special immunizations before you may be allowed to enter, be sure to check these recommendations on the CDC website.

The importance of getting vaccinated

Diseases like polio, measles, whooping cough, flu can be prevented with vaccines.  Without vaccines people that caught these viruses could be paralyzed, blinded, lose their hearing, or even die.  In 2015 there were 710,000 people hospitalized for flu and over 56,000 of them died.  There are some patients that can not be vaccinated and depend on others to be vaccinated so they do not get sick.  This is called “herd immunity,” the more people that are vaccinated, the healthier everyone will be.  So don’t wait, get vaccinated today!

 

References

  1. www.vaccines.gov/basics
  2. www.newsinhealth.gov/nih/2016/07/safeguarding-our-health
  3. Felicilda-Reynaldo RF, “Types of flu vaccines for yearly immunization.” MedSurg Nursing, July-Aug. 2014, p. 256
  4. Grohskopf LA, Sokolow LZ, Broder KR, et al. Prevention and control of seasonal influenza with vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices United States 2018-2019 influenza season. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018.
  5. Kim DK, Riley LE, Hunter P. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended Immunization Schedule for Adults Aged 19 Years or Older – United States, 2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018; 67:158.

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does sunscreen cause cancer - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Pattiya Wattananimitgul

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5 million Americans are treated with skin cancer each year.1 Overexposure of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is proven to be a major cause of skin cancer.2 In fact, approximately 90% of all skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.3 One way to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays is wearing a sunscreen. However, you may have heard that ingredients in sunscreens can cause cancer, and not just skin cancer but also breast, prostate, and other types of cancer.4 But is it true? Does sunscreen, which is supposed to protect us from skin cancer, actually lead to cancer and other health problems?

Oxybenzone

Oxybenzone is a common active ingredient in sunscreens that absorbs the UVA and UVB radiation and then dissipates it as heat.5 Oxybenzone penetrates through the skin, and then gets metabolized and excreted through urine and feces.6 Some studies suggest that oxybenzone may have an impact on the endocrine system, disrupting hormone levels and potentially causing hormone-related cancer. These studies were actually done on rats. A human study suggested that oxybenzone, even at a high concentration, does not cause hormone disruption. The conclusion is that oxybenzone is an FDA-approved chemical to protect your skin from the sun’s radiation, and currently there is not enough evidence to prove or suggest that oxybenzone causes hormone disruption and cancer in humans.3,7,8

Retinyl Palmitate

Retinyl palmitate is another ingredient commonly added to sunscreens as a skin conditioner. It is a form of vitamin A, known to help slow down premature skin aging. There is some concern, based on a small number of studies, that the free radicals generated from retinyl palmitate may cause changes to our cells and cause skin cancer. However, no studies suggested that these changes are cancerous or increase cancer risks.3,7,8 In fact, a form of vitamin A called retinoids has been used for decades to help protect people with high risk of developing skin cancers from getting skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.9

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are nanoparticles that physically protect your skin from UVA and UVB radiation. Some studies indicated that these active ingredients can be absorbed in the skin and cause cells damage. However, according to current studies, these nanoparticles stay on the skin’s surface and do not penetrate the skin when applied.3

Protect Yourself from UV Rays

The main takeaway is that you should always wear sunscreen when going outside, even when it’s cloudy. The known benefits of regular sunscreen use outweigh the unproven risks of potential toxicity. The type of sunscreen you use is up to you, whether it is chemical or physical. However, make sure the ingredient protects both UVA and UVB radiation (broad-spectrum) with SPF of at least 30. Below is a chart by the Skin Cancer Foundation of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved active ingredients that can be found in sunscreen and their UV action spectrum.3 When using sunscreen, make sure to cover all the exposed skin and reapply the sunscreen every two hours, or right after swimming or sweating. Other ways to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays are9:

  • Seeking shade between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest
  • Wearing protective clothing such as lightweight long sleeve shirt, pants, broad-brimmed hat, and UV-protection sunglasses
  • Avoiding tanning beds

active ingredients in sunscreen - scriptsave wellrx blog image

Warwick, M. L., MD, MB, & Wang, S. Q., MD. (2011, November 11). Suncreens: Safe and Effective?
Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-safe-and-effective

Resources

  1. Cancer Prevention and Control. (2015, September 03). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/research/articles/sunscreen-use.htm
  2. The Facts About Sunscreen. (2018, January 11). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/preventing-melanoma/facts-about-sunscreen
  3. Warwick, M. L., MD, MB, & Wang, S. Q., MD. (2011, November 11). Suncreens: Safe and Effective? Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-safe-and-effective
  4. Do Sunscreens Cause Cancer? (2018, June 12). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/do-sunscreens-cause-cancer/
  5. How does sunscreen work? (2017, August 14). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/sunscreen.html
  6. Jiang, R., Roberts, M. S., Collins, D. M., & Benson, H. A. E. (1999). Absorption of sunscreens across human skin: an evaluation of commercial products for children and adults. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 48(4), 635–637. http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2125.1999.00056.x
  7. Janjua, N. R., Mogensen, B., Andersson, A., Petersen, J. H., Henriksen, M., Skakkebæk, N. E., & Wulf, H. C. (2004). Systemic Absorption of the Sunscreens Benzophenone-3, Octyl-Methoxycinnamate, and 3-(4-Methyl-Benzylidene) Camphor After Whole-Body Topical Application and Reproductive Hormone Levels in Humans. Journal of Investigative Dermatology,123(1), 57-61. doi:10.1111/j.0022-202x.2004.22725.x
  8. Can the chemicals in sunscreen cause cancer – Canadian Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/be-sun-safe/can-the-chemicals-in-sunscreen-cause-cancer/?region=on
  9. Is sunscreen safe? (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2018, from https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/is-sunsceen-safe

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medications can increase your fall risk - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Roxanna Orsini
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Falls Happen More Often Than You Think

Every year there are millions of falls occurring in the older population, aged 65 and older.2 About 1 out of 4 older people fall each year, with less than half reporting it to their doctor.2 Your chances of a recurrent fall doubles after your first fall. The emergency department (ED) treats about 3 million older individuals for fall injuries each year.2 The most common injuries seen in the ED after a fall includes fractures, superficial injuries, and head injuries.(2,3) Patients have reported a reduction in their quality of life up to 9 months after being admitted in the ED for a fall.3

After a fall you may develop a fear of falling. This can cause negative health effects including:3

  • Recurrent falls
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Restriction or avoidance of social activities
  • Depression/anxiety

Are You at Risk for a Fall?

Here are a few questions to help you determine if you are at risk of a fall:5

  • Do you rush to use the bathroom?
  • Do you take a medication to help you sleep or improve your mood?
  • Do you take a medication that sometimes makes you feel light-headed or more tired than usual?
  • Do you use or have been advised to use a cane or walker?
  • Have you lost some feeling in your feet?
  • Do you feel unsteady when walking at times?
  • Have you had a previous fall?

Answering yes to any of these questions should warrant a conversation with your doctor about getting screened for your risk of falling.

There are certain chronic medical conditions that can contribute to your chances of a fall such as arthritis, dementia, stroke, cataracts, Parkinson’s disease, and urinary incontinence.1 Some of the medications used for these health conditions can increase your risk of a fall. However, falls can be caused by almost any medication that effects your brain or blood circulation.

Some Medications Can Increase the Risk of a Fall

A few medications that can increase your risk of a fall include:3

Most of these medications can decrease your alertness, cause fatigue, dizziness, and drop your blood pressure when you stand up (also referred to as postural hypotension).1

Postural hypotension occurs in about 30% of older adults and may experience one of these symptoms within 1 minute to several minutes of standing up:4

  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

If you are taking any of these medications, experiencing any of these symptoms or taking more than 6 medications, talk to your doctor about your risk for a fall.4 Your doctor may need to reduce or change your medication to help reduce your symptoms and fall risk, never make any changes to your medication without consulting your doctor first.

Balance, medications, and home safety should be addressed in everyone at high risk.4 To help maintain the highest level of mobility and reduce your chances of falling or risk of injury, follow up with your doctor. Your doctor can provide tips and recommend exercises designed to prevent falls and help avoid unnecessary trips to the Emergency Department.

 

References:

  1. Berg, R. and Cassells, J. (1992). Falls in Older Persons: Risk Factors and Prevention. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235613/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2018].
  2. gov. (2018). Important Facts about Falls | Home and Recreational Safety | CDC Injury Center. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html [Accessed 20 Jul. 2018].
  3. de Jong, M., Van der Elst, M. and Hartholt, K. (2013). Drug-related falls in older patients: implicated drugs, consequences, and possible prevention strategies. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 4(4), pp.147-154.
  4. Phelan, E., Mahoney, J., Voit, J. and Stevens, J. (2015). Assessment and Management of Fall Risk in Primary Care Settings. Medical Clinics of North America, 99(2), pp.281-293.
  5. Sri‐on, J., Tirrell, G., Kamsom, A., Marill, K., Shankar, K. and Liu, S. (2018). A High‐yield Fall Risk and Adverse Events Screening Questions From the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Death, and Injuries (STEADI) Guideline for Older Emergency Department Fall Patients. Academic Emergency Medicine.

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imprtance of iodine - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Marcus Harding
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

What is Iodine and why is it important?

You may be wondering, “Why do I need iodine in my salt or other food?” Iodine is an essential element our bodies need that we cannot produce on our own, and therefore need to get it from food sources1. Iodine is needed to produce the thyroid hormone, which is important for bodily functions related to metabolism and how our cells use the energy they are given1. Iodine is found in foods such as cheese, milk, eggs, ice cream, saltwater fish, iodized table salt and some multivitamins1. Most people get their daily intake of iodine from iodized table salt1. There is, however, a large population of people who have heart disease or high blood pressure, who are asked by their doctors to not consume as much salt as others.

Who should reduce their salt intake and by how much?

iodized salt - scriptsave wellrx blog image

Heart disease and high blood pressure afflict a large percent of the U.S. population today. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart disease and Stroke Statistics of 2018 estimates that 31.1% of the world’s population has high blood pressure, and they predict that by 2035, more than 45% of the US population will have some form of cardiovascular disease2. It is because of these abnormally high numbers that the AHA has diet and lifestyle recommendations for being “heart healthy,” that they recommend to everyone, not just people who have heart disease or high blood pressure.

One such recommendation is to reduce the amount of sodium consumed each day. Sodium can cause water retention in your body, increasing blood pressure and making your heart work harder than it needs to3. The average American consumes more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. The AHA recommends having less than 1,500 milligrams per day3. For reference, 1 teaspoon is about 2,300 mg of salt. The AHA reports that the body really only needs about 500 milligrams per day, so eating a heart healthy diet will still get you enough sodium to meet the daily requirements3.

How do I get enough Iodine on a low sodium diet?

So, what can you do to make sure you get enough iodine daily, while eating a heart healthy diet?  It is simple. The body needs 150 micrograms of iodine per day1. For reference, a teaspoon of iodized salt contains about 400 micrograms of iodine1. If you wanted to cut out salt in your diet and be under 1500 milligrams of salt per day, that is still at least 260 micrograms of iodine per day, which is greater than the 150 micrograms a day that your body needs. Keep in mind that the majority of people in the US are getting such large amounts of sodium through salty snacks, processed meats, and the typical “unhealthy foods” that the AHA is trying to help people avoid. Make sure that the sodium you do consume is iodized so that you are reaching that 150-microgram daily recommendation.

Overall, there is no need to fear not getting enough iodine while restricting sodium in your diet, as long as you make sure the salt you eat is iodized, and not coming from processed meats, potato chips and other salty snacks. Following the American Heart Association’s recommendations, you should still be getting more than the recommended daily amount of iodine. If you are concerned about the amount of iodine in your diet, there are multivitamins out there that contain 150 micrograms that can be taken daily.  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, your local pharmacist is well equipped to answer your questions and help guide you in the right direction.

 

References

  1. “Iodine Deficiency.” American Thyroid Association, http://thyroid.org/iodine-deficiency/.
  2. Benjamin, Emelia J, et all. “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics— 2018 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.” American Heart Association, 2 Mar. 2017, http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/137/12/e67.
  3. “How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?” Sodium Breakup, http://sodiumbreakup.heart.org/how_much_sodium_should_i_eat.

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lowest prescription prices - scriptsave wellrx image

Chances are good that you are spending too much on your prescription medications. Every day we receive phone calls, emails, and comments on Facebook about the staggering prices people pay for the medications they need. People are struggling. We get it. That’s why we launched ScriptSave WellRx – to bring prescription savings to everyone.

How Does It Work? Who Can You Trust? Are Prescription Savings Cards Legit?

There are a lot of companies in the discount prescription space, so how do you know who to trust? How do prescription saving cards work? The short answer is, we negotiate discounts on bulk drug purchases with pharmacy owners at more than 65,000 pharmacies nationwide. The discounts we’ve negotiated are off the cash prices for your medications. More affordable prescriptions bring in more customers who buy more, so it pays off for the pharmacies.

You can feel safe with the resources we share and savings we deliver. ScriptSave WellRx is part of Medical Security Card Company, LLC; bringing some of the most advanced technology, pharmacy expertise and customer service in the industry for the past 25 years.

ScriptSave WellRx in the News

A recent article on prescription costs and savings from The Mighty1 highlights how widely prescription prices can vary between discount companies. Check out their comparison on the medication, Savella:

Savella (Milnacipran)

Savella is a nerve pain and antidepressant medication often used to treat fibromyalgia. Currently, only the brand version is available.

savella pricing scriptsave wellrx prescription savings image

 

How Much Will You Save?

Try our free price comparison tool to see if we can help you save. The ScriptSave WellRx program is FREE to all patients, and the price-check tool is available 24/7, without the need for an account or any personal details. In other words, the program can be used risk-free and with nothing to lose. We even provide free medication management tools, refill reminders and an “Ask a Pharmacist” helpline. We’re doing our best every day to help patients get safe, hassle-free savings.

 

References:

  1. How to Save Money on Your Prescription Drug Costs – The Mighty
    https://themighty.com/2018/08/how-to-save-money-prescription-drug-costs/

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Epidiolex: A new CBD epilepsy drug

by Roxanna Orsini,
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Treatments are available that can successfully control seizures for most people with epilepsy. However, there’s a soon-to-be-released medication, recently approved by the FDA, called Epidiolex.

What is Epidiolex?

Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is a new FDA-approved epilepsy medication that is derived from Cannabis Sativa plant (marijuana). Cannabidiol (CBD) does not create feelings of euphoria or intoxication, the “high” that is often experienced with Cannabis, which comes mainly from the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is also found in marijuana.

Which forms of epilepsy does Epidiolex treat?

The FDA approved Epidiolex for treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, in patients two (2) years and older.5

  • Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome
    • Begins in childhood and continues to adulthood with some changes in presentation with age.3
    • Often characterized by multiple types of seizures (particularly tonic and atonic) and an intellectual disability.
    • An EEG (electroencephalogram) can display a classic pattern of background slowing and spike-wave bursts with frequencies less than 2.5 per second. 2
    • Found in 2-5% of childhood epilepsies.2
  • Dravet Syndrome
    • Begins during the first year of life and is a lifelong disease.3
    • This is a rare genetic epileptic brain disease.
    • Infants will have normal development up until an increase in seizure frequency occurs after the first seizure which is often associated with a fever. 1
    • Most children develop some level of developmental disability.
    • Seizures can be triggered by various factors such as body temperature, emotional stress or excitement, and photosensitivity.1

Coming Soon!

While Epidiolex has been approved for release, the expected time to market is September 2018. A few things to know about the medication before it is released:

Effectiveness

The study for Epidiolex involved 3 randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials which included 516 patients who had either Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome or Dravet Syndrome.3 Results showed that patients taking Epidiolex along with other anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) showed a decrease in seizure frequency when compared to the placebo.3

Precautions

Side effects (3,5) are often something to be aware of before starting a new medication. A few reported side effects to Epidiolex include:

  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash
  • Increase in suicidal thoughts
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Abdominal pain

Cost

The company has not release any official information about cost for Epidiolex, however NY Times analysis estimates a cost of $2,500 to $5,000 a month.4 It is possible that this medication may be approved by insurances so make sure to discuss options with your provider.

Future Opportunities

Even though this medication is only currently approved for these two forms of seizures, it does open the door to future possibilities.  Always keep communication open with your healthcare provider so they can help guide you on therapy options as more clinical studies arise with new information.

 

References:

  1. Epilepsy Foundation. (2018). Dravet Syndrome. [online] Available at: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-epilepsy-syndromes/dravet-syndrome [Accessed 11 Jul. 2018].
  2. Epilepsy Foundation. (2018). Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS). [online] Available at: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/types-epilepsy-syndromes/lennox-gastaut-syndrome-lgs [Accessed 11 Jul. 2018].
  3. FDA.gov. (2018). FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm611046.htm [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].
  4. Kaplan, S. (2018). D.A. Panel Recommends Approval of Cannabis-Based Drug for Epilepsy. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/health/epidiolex-fda-cannabis-marajuana.html [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].
  5. Micromedexsolutions.com. (2018). Micromedex Products: Please Login. [online] Available at:
    http://www.micromedexsolutions.com/micromedex2/librarian/CS/B42F8E/ND_PR/evidencexpert/ [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].

 


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Employers and preventive care - blog image - ScriptSave WellRx

by Benjamin Liang
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Every year, employers are paying more to have their employees insured. A study on the annual growth rate of health care costs found that employers are experiencing 5%-to-6% increases in healthcare costs per year.Early estimates suggest employers will spend over $730 billion on health benefits in 2018 alone.

Curbing Healthcare Costs

Growing health care costs can impact both employees and companies:

  • Employees are becoming more concerned because some of the costs are being passed on by the employers.
  • Increasing costs are pushing large employers to be more involved in healthcare, instead of relying on insurers.
  • As companies grow and costs increase, the amount spent on health benefits will follow suit.  

Saving Money While Providing Better Care

Companies are tackling the increases in health care costs by negotiating with healthcare providers without going through a middleman. By skipping the insurer, large employer groups are spending less and creating a direct path to health care services for  their  employees. These new plans are becoming more prevalent in areas such as the Silicon Valley, where large employee populations can be monitored day-to-day in the work environment.

Healthcare providers are being stationed inside the work space for enhanced patient monitoring, and clinics are being built into the work environments to create better access to healthcare services. The new patient-focused  care plans strive to prevent health conditions, rather than treating problems after they appear. Monitoring employees with  routine check-ups generally costs less than rushing them to the hospital for emergency services.

In California, a partnership between a large employer and a hospital offers a plan that requires healthcare providers to track multiple health indicators on a consistent schedule to prevent unexpected healthcare costs.Many employees are reluctant to switch to a plan that further restricts where they can receive health benefits, but employers are providing incentives to lower the costs to employees.

Some of the incentives include lower monthly premiums and copays. Clinics within the workplace often include necessary amenities for healthcare providers to perform general check-ups, physical therapy, and promote an all-inclusive body, mind, and spirit preventative healthcare approach.

What Can We Learn from Large Employers?

Current healthcare plans that support constant monitoring have allowed employers to save money by reducing high-cost services. Many employers are trying to move towards preventing health conditions rather than treating them after they appear. They are also addressing the inherent conflict for providers, where prevention of expensive healthcare costs reduces the number patients taking part in more profitable care such as emergency services. As we watch these new health plans continue to grow we can observe the benefits of constant monitoring and prevention. If employers continue to promote these plans due to improved health outcomes and costs savings, we may want to take a more preventative approach to our own healthcare.

References

  1. Barnes, K., Judy, R., & Isgur, B. (2018, June 15). Medical Cost Trend. Retrieved from PWC: https://www.pwc.com/us/en/health-industries/health-research-institute/behind-the-html
  2. Caspani, M. (2018, June 15). Soaring costs, loss of benefits top Americans’ healthcare worries: Reuters/Ipsos poll. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-worries/soaring-costs-loss-of-benefits-top-americans-healthcare-worries-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKBN1JB1FD
  3. Humer, C. (2018, June 11). Fed up with rising costs, big US firms dig into health care. Retrieved from Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-employers-insight/fed-up-with-rising-costs-big-u-s-firms-dig-into-healthcare-idUSKBN1J70ZZ

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by Pattiya Wattananimitgul

How to Handle Your Child’s Medication During the School Year

In the United States, more than 263 million prescriptions are dispensed each year for pediatric patients.1 Chances are, your child may need to take their medications at school. If your child has a medication that they need to take during school hours, whether it is a long-term, short-term, or emergency medication, here are some helpful tips for parents and guardians:

Prior to the School Year1,2

  • Ask the pharmacist to put your child’s medications into two different bottles, each with its’ own label. One to be kept at home and one to be kept at school, if school policy allows.
  • Make sure all the prescription medications kept at school are in an original container (ie., no zip-top bags or foil) and labeled by a pharmacist.
  • Make sure all over-the-counter medications (including supplements) kept at school are in the original containers. Some states require a physician’s written consent and a parent written permission for over-the-counter medications. Be sure to check with your school.
  • It is also important for your child to play active roles in their medication. They should be educated about the effective and safe use of their medicine to help avoid improper administration, dosing errors, and non-adherence.

At the Beginning and During the School Year2,3

  • Provide the school with a full list of your child’s medications, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements. Be sure to update the school with any changes throughout the school year.
  • Talk to the school nurse or teacher ahead of time to make sure your child’s medication will be administered correctly (icorrect medication, dosage, route, frequency). Define who will administer the medication, and who will carry the medications during field trips.
  • School staff are not allowed to determine when to administer “as needed” medications. Be sure that your child’s medication includes specific instruction on when to administer and for what indication (ie., every 6 hours as needed for headache).
  • All medications should be transported by adults to adults. DO NOT let your child carry the medications unless they are capable and responsible to self-administer their medication to carry their own medications, especially for emergency medications that need immediate access, as deemed appropriate by the school.

Emergency Medications2

  • Be sure your child is able to get instantaneous access to emergency medications, like epinephrine injections for allergic reaction, glucagon for low blood sugar, or albuterol for an asthma attack.
  • Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antihistamines are usually available at school in case your child experiences sudden pain or fever such as headaches, toothache, or menstrual cramps. It is important to sign a waiver granting the school permission to administer these medications in case your child experiences these symptoms.

Lastly, most schools and school districts have policies regarding student’s medication handling. It is important for you to check with your school for specific protocols that you need to follow to make sure that your child is getting the proper care.

 

References

  1. Abraham, O., Brothers, A., Alexander, D. S., & Carpenter, D. M. (2017). Pediatric medication use experiences and patient counseling in community pharmacies: Perspectives of children and parents. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 57(1), 38-46. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2016.08.019
  2. Administering Medication at School: Tips for Parents. (2016, December 19). Retrieved July 25, 2018, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Administering-Medication-at-Child-Care-or-School.aspx
  3. Guidelines for the Administration of Medication in School. (2003). American Academy of Pediatrics, 112(3), 697-699. doi:10.1542/peds.112.3.697

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by Benjamin Liang
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Changes in Health Information Technology (HIT)

Technology in our daily lives is increasing at an astounding pace. Each day, our lives are becoming more connected to technology, but more specifically, to information technology. Recent news events related to personal information have brought some concerns to light. Companies that provide technology services are storing user data and potentially using the data for their own purposes. Technology users are becoming savvier about the data they produce, which companies have access to the data, and how the data is being used. There are government regulations set in place for protecting your health information.

Let’s look at how healthcare providers are using health information and what you can do to protect and use your information effectively.

What are healthcare providers are doing?

The impact healthcare providers have on you is dependent on the amount of information available. Access to health information can help in patient care. Healthcare providers are trying to get connected and stay connected with patients. Consistent, scheduled care can allow healthcare providers to prevent problems or treat them before they take a toll on daily activities.2

Some ways pharmacists are using health information technology is through medication therapy management, clinical decision support, chronic care management, and annual wellness visits. Medication Therapy Management (MTM) utilizes prescription medication claims and information from the patient to find problems with medications, costs, and adherence. Clinical decision support connects patient health information to a knowledge base to guide therapy and reduce medication errors. Using standardized records systems, pharmacists can manage chronic conditions by using data from multiple sources such as pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics.

The progression of a chronic disease can be tracked through the records from multiple sources, thus allowing pharmacists to adjust medication therapy as needed. Access to health information through multiple sources also allows providers to have a better picture of patients’ health during annual wellness visits.1

How can I stay safe?

Healthcare providers are required to provide patients with a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) consent form. Signing this form allows the healthcare facility to utilize your health information for therapy and billing. The healthcare facilities also follow the guidelines set by HIPAA to secure your information and to use it only when necessary. If you are concerned about health information practices you can ask if the facility follows HIPAA guidelines. Most facilities can provide a report on why your information was used and to whom it was shared. You can also request a copy of your health records and make corrections to them, if appropriate.3

What can you do to help your healthcare providers?

Healthcare providers can make more informed decisions when your health information is accurate and complete. The best way to help providers reach informed decisions is to ensure your health records are up to date. These are some categories that should be up to date in your own health records:

  • Allergies
  • Current Medication List
    • Name of the medication
    • Strength of the medication
    • Schedule for taking the medication
    • Route of administration
    • Length of time on each medication
  • Current and Past Health conditions
    • When you were diagnosed
    • Surgical history

Shared decision making is a way for patients and their providers to work together to determine what is right for the patient in order for you, as the patient, to make an informed decision about your health care. When selecting treatments, screening tests, and care plans, it’s important to talk to your provider about your preferences and to fully understand how your personal health information is being used. After all, it is yours!

References

  1. Abubakar, A., & Sinclair, J. (2018). Health infromation tehnology in practice. Pharmacy Today, 58-65.
  2. Dullabh , P., Sondheimer , N., Katsh, E., Young, J.-E., Washington, M., & Stromberg, S. (2014). Improving the Health Records Request Process for Patients Insights from User Experience Research. Chicago: NORC at the Univeristy of Chicago.
  3. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, February 1). Your Rights Under HIPAA. Retrieved from U.S. Health and Human Services: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

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Medicare “Donut Hole” Changes Being Made and What It Means For You

by Marcus Harding
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Mmmm…donut holes. You may be thinking of relaxing on a Saturday morning, sipping coffee and eating these tasty, sugary, fried treats. Unfortunately,  the type of donut hole we’re talking about is not so tasty.

What is the “Donut Hole?”

The Medicare coverage gap, better known as the “donut hole,” is a mystery to many, however there are thousands of people that it effects every year1. Simply put, it is a gap in coverage of medications after a certain amount has been contributed2. In other words, after you and your plan have spent a total of $3,750 on medications for the year (not including your deductible), the plan stops covering those medications and you are required to pay the entire cost of the medication out of pocket2. Once you enter the donut hole, and pay a total of $5,000 for the year (including your deductible) you enter what is called “critical coverage,” and you only pay 5% of the total cost for each medication3.

Medicare donut hole image - ScriptSave WellRx

Changes to the Donut Hole

The Affordable Care Act set in motion a plan to get rid of the donut hole completely1,2,4,7. The act set in place a “discount” that each plan member would get every year when they reached the donut hole. This discount would be paid by the manufacturers of the medications, and would increase each year until 2020, when the donut hole would be gone completely2.

  • In 2018, once a member enters the donut hole, they pay 35% of the total cost of the brand name drug, and the manufacturer pays a 50% discount2. This discount would be applied to the total cost spent by you, the plan member.
  • Example: you need a $100 medication, you pay $35, the manufacturer discounts you $50, so it looks as if you payed $85.
    • That $85 goes towards the $5,000 required spending to get out of the donut hole.
    • Once that $5,000 is spent, you reach critical coverage and only pay 5% of the brand name drug cost.

On Friday February 9th, the president signed a budget deal to “get rid” of the donut hole sooner4,5,6,7.

  • In 2019, once you reach the donut hole you will only pay 25% of a brand name drug cost, the insurance company will cover 5% of the cost and the manufacturer will cover the other 70%4,5,6,7.
  • You will receive credit for the 70% discount from the manufacturer, plus the 25% that you contributed for a total of 95% of the drug cost4,5,6,7.
    • This amount will go towards the $5000 threshold, after which you will be in “critical coverage” and pay only 5% of the total drug cost.
  • Example: If you need a $100 medication, you pay $25, the manufacturer discounts you $70, so it looks as if you payed $95.
    • The $95 goes towards the $5,000 to reach critical coverage where you will only pay 5% of the drug cost for the rest of the year.

So, the donut hole will still technically exist, but now instead of paying the full 100% of the cost of your medications, you will only pay 25%, and be credited with 95%.

What does this mean for you?

Healthcare in general can be complicated, especially as you factor insurance and coverage into the mix. There are a lot of numbers and percentages, so if you got lost in the numbers throughout this description, basically this means that if you typically reach the donut hole each year and are expected to pay for medications out of pocket, you will be saving a lot of money. Some people may not have enough medications or a high enough drug cost to even reach the donut hole, which is great, however as people get older they tend to have more health complications and need more medications. This can cost a lot of money. With these new laws and budget deals in place, if you have been reaching the donut hole previously, your total cost savings can increase quite a bit compared to previous years1.

How do you know if you will reach the donut hole?

Once again, the numbers above can be tricky to work through. Luckily there are easier ways to look at cost, spending and discounts.

  • It is estimated that if you pay more than $318 a month, you will enter the donut hole before the end of the year.
  • If you pay more than $743 a month, you will exit the donut hole before the end of the year and enter catastrophic coverage (based on a deductible of $415)4.

These numbers are just estimates based off common coverage and will differ depending on the deductible you have and the coverage you pay for. If you want to find out more about how much you spend compared to how much is covered, there are Medicare Part D donut hole calculators that break it down by each monthly payment4. Lastly, pharmacists are always a great source of knowledge as they deal with these plans on a daily basis, so never forget to ask a pharmacist or even your plan directly if you have any questions regarding the changes.

References:

  1. “2017-01-13.” CMS.gov Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 23 May 2018, www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2017-Press-releases-items/2017-01-13.html.
  2. “Costs in the Coverage Gap.” Medicare.gov – the Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare, www.medicare.gov/part-d/costs/coverage-gap/part-d-coverage-gap.html. https://www.medicare.gov/part-d/costs/coverage-gap/more-drug-savings-in-2020.html
  3. Bunis, Dena. “Medicare Part D ‘Donut Hole’ Will Close in 2019.” AARP, 9 Feb. 2018, aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/info-2018/part-d-donut-hole-closes-fd.html.
  4. A Preview of 2019: CMS Releases the Proposed 2019 Medicare Part D Standard Drug Plan Coverage Parameters.” Q1Medicare.Com, 2 Feb. 2018, 1524, https://q1medicare.com/q1group/MedicareAdvantagePartD/Blog.php?blog=A-preview-of-2019–CMS-releases-the-proposed-2019-Medicare-Part-D-standard-drug-plan-coverage-parameters&blog_id=397&frompage=18.
  5. Cubanski, Juliette. “Summary of Recent and Proposed Changes to Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage and Reimbursement.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 15 Feb. 2018, kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/summary-of-recent-and-proposed-changes-to-medicare-prescription-drug-coverage-and-reimbursement/?utm_campaign=KFF-2018-Medicare&utm_content=67264845&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.
  6. Larson, John. “H.R.1892 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.” Congress.gov, 9 Feb. 2018, congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1892?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.1892%22%5D%7D&r=1.
  7. “Prescription Drug Benefits.” Social Security History, Social Security Administration, 22 Feb. 2018, www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title18/1860D-02.htm.

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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by Derek Matlock
Pharm.D. Candidate 2017
Washington State University

Nearly one-quarter of all U.S. deaths in 2016 we­­­re linked to heart disease, which refers to conditions involved in narrowing or blocking blood vessels, potentially leading to things like heart attack, chest pain, or stroke.

A Steady Decline in Stroke Deaths

Despite the continued and steady decline of deaths due to strokes, they continue account for 1 of every 20 deaths in the US. The decline of deaths due to strokes can be attributed to early identification of strokes, primary prevention, and secondary prevention.

Signs of a Stroke

FAST stroke acronym explained - image - ScriptSave WellRx

As a patient or caregiver, is it important to be able to identify the signs of a stroke as early as possible, as it can influence a positive outcome in patients at risk. The FAST acronym can be a simple and easy tool for identifying a stroke.

 

Face: Does the face look uneven? Ask them to smile.

Arm: Does one arm hang down? Ask them to raise both arms.

Speech: Does their speech sound strange? Ask them to repeat a phrase.

Time: Every second brain cells die. If any of these signs are observed, call 911.

Primary Prevention of a Stroke

Primary prevention refers to the management or treatment of patients who have no prior history of stroke. It involves addressing modifiable risk factors a patient may have, which may include: high blood pressure, diabetes, dyslipidemia, atrial fibrillation, sickle cell disease, post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, diet, weight and body fat.

 

Additionally, your doctor or pharmacist may calculate your Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD) risk score, which estimates a 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke and helps determine the appropriateness of using medications to lower your risk. Some medications that may be added include: statins for cholesterol; thiazide diuretics, ACE inhibitors (ACEIs)/angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), or calcium-channel blockers (CCBs) for blood pressure; and aspirin to help prevent blood clot formation.

Secondary Prevention of a Stroke

Secondary prevention refers to the treatment of patients who have already had a stroke or “mini-stroke.” Interventions commonly prescribed for secondary prevention are summarized using the following ABCDE acronym:

Antiplatelets and Anticoagulants: Antiplatelet medications, like aspirin, clopidogrel, and dipyridamole, can prevent formation of clots. Anticoagulants like warfarin, apixaban, rivaroxaban, and dabigatran can also reduce the ability for the blood to clot and thus lower stroke risk.

Blood pressure-lowering medications: Thiazide diuretics, ACEIs/ARBs, and CCBs help patients control the number one risk factor for a recurrent stroke, high blood pressure.

Cessation of cigarette smoking and Cholesterol-lowering medications: Quitting smoking can significantly lower the risk of strokes, while cholesterol-lowering medications, like statins (e.g., simvastatin, rosuvastatin, atorvastatin), have been shown to lower bad cholesterol as well as decrease the risk of recurrent stroke and mortality.

Diet: In addition to helping weight loss, following a heart healthy diet, or a low-sodium “DASH diet”, may help lower cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure, which decreases your risk of a stroke.

Exercise: For patients capable of exercising, it is recommended to exercise moderately to vigorously for 20 to 40 minutes 3-4 times per week. Be sure to stay within your limits. Good exercises can include walking or riding an exercise bike. Some community centers and gyms even host classes for older patients with physical limitations.

Strokes Still a Significant Cause of Death

Strokes continue to account for a significant amount of deaths in the United States. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend lifestyle modifications and medications to help lower the possibility of experiencing a new or recurrent stroke. If you are being prescribed medications to lower your stroke risk, be sure to provide your doctor with a thorough medical history and medication list, as some conditions and medications may guide the recommendations your doctor makes. Your pharmacist can also be a valuable resource to any questions you may have.

 

References:

  1. American Heart Association: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2017
  2. Mayo Clinic: Heart Disease
  3. MedicalNewsToday: Top 10 Causes of Death in the U.S.
  4. Medscape: Stroke Prevention
  5. UpToDate: Overview of Primary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke
  6. UpToDate: Overview of Secondary Prevention of Ischemic Stroke

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What is Cystic Fibrosis (CF)?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a complex genetic disease that affects the lungs, digestive system, reproductive tract, and sweat glands. In the United States, roughly 30,000 people are living with cystic fibrosis, and another 1,000 are being diagnosed with the disease each year. Most CF patients are diagnosed by age two.

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive condition, involving body’s mucus glands1. Despite its widespread effects on the body, the majority of patients in United States suffer from lung complications with CF. These patients cannot removes excess mucus from their lungs which can lead to the accumulation of thick, viscous secretions1. Mucus accumulation is often a breeding ground for bacterial growth. Children and adolescents with CF often have decreased growth, which could be caused by a combination of malabsorption, decrease in appetite, and increase in energy expenditure due to this condition2. Some CF patients do not make adequate pancreatic enzymes, which are needed to help the body absorb the fat soluble vitamins A,D, E, and K. These vitamins are essential for body growth, immune function, and reproductive health.

Dietary Supplementation

It is important for CF patients to eat a proper diet. They often require a higher caloric intake than other people. Pancreatic enzymes should be replaced if the patient is diagnosed with pancreatic insufficiency. These are some examples of targeted nutrients and/or pharmacological agents that are used in practice:

Non-Pharmacological Nutrients in Cystic Fibrosis3,5

  • Omega 3 fatty acids to lower inflammation.
  • Probiotic supplement to improve digestion.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocadoes, walnuts, and flaxseed oils.
  • Sodium – patients with CF are prone to sodium loss. However, they should carefully monitor their blood pressure if their doctor recommends a high sodium diet.
  • Fluoride – vitamins formulated for the CF patient do not contain fluoride. It is essential to feed them fluoride supplement.
  • Zinc – CF patients under the age of two, who have inadequate growth despite the proper nutrient support, should be evaluated for zinc deficiencies.

Treatments for Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis treatment strives to help patients reach a better quality of life by improving breathing and lung capacity. Devices, like oscillatory positive pressure, remove the mucus and secretions of the lungs. Hypertonic saline can be used to increase air flow into the lungs and break up mucus. Breathing exercises and physical therapy can help dislodge the mucus in the chest and promote better breathing4.

Symptoms of Lung Complications in CF Patients

Force expiratory volume (FEV1) is a measure of how much air a person can exhale in a forced breath, and is a good indicator of lung function. It’s an easy, convenient method for monitoring lung function at home. FEV1 below individual goal is the indication of reduction in pulmonary function3. In young children, viruses are the cause of acute exacerbations leading to a decline in pulmonary functions. Diagnosis of pulmonary exacerbations is based on decline in individual health condition with pulmonary symptoms, as compared to recent baseline health status3. Symptoms that are commonly present include:

  • New or increased cough
  • Increase in sputum production or chest congestion
  • Increased fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in sputum appearances

Pharmacological Treatments

CF patient are at a severe risk for influenza infection. Prophylaxis or treatment with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) is often recommended under certain circumstances6. Annual vaccination against viral influenza is recommended to all patients with CF six months and older6.

Many patients with CF have chronic bacterial infection of lungs because of the thick viscus mucus accumulation. Systemic antibiotics are indicated to all patient with CF if they experience new or increased cough, and changes in the color of their mucus, which can indicate bacterial presence due to unnecessary mucus accumulation in the lungs. Antibiotic selection will depend on the results of a sputum culture.

Patients with the CF should focus on the type of food they consume to ensure they are getting proper nutrients. Daily use of the FEV1 is important, which helps to clear the mucus and prevent possible infections.

References:

  1. Cohen, T. S., & Prince, A. (2012). Cystic fibrosis: a mucosal immunodeficiency syndrome. Nature medicine, 18(4), 509-519.
  2. Borowitz D, Baker RD, Stallings V. Consensus report on nutrition for pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2002; 35:246.
  3. Reilly JJ, Edwards CA, Weaver LT. Malnutrition in children with cystic fibrosis: the energy-balance equation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1997; 25:127.
  4. Rosenfeld M, Emerson J, Williams-Warren J, et al. Defining a pulmonary exacerbation in cystic fibrosis. J Pediatr 2001; 139:359.
  5. Stallings VA, Stark LJ, Robinson KA, Feranchak AP, Quinton H, Clinical Practice Guidelines on Growth and Nutrition Subcommittee, Ad Hoc Working Group J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(5):832.
  6. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/cystic-fibrosis-overview-of-the-treatment-of-lung-disease?sectionName=Influenza%20vaccine&anchor=H20&source=see_link#H20

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
visit WellRx.com to find Rx discounts at pharmacies near you.
You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

 

 

 

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