Do you have GERD - blog image

by Misgana Gebreslassie, PharmD Candidate,
Class of 2020 University of Colorado

Roughly 18 to 26% of Americans have GERD, and the majority are adults between the ages of 30 to 60 years. GERD is a short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition where stomach fluid (acid) backs up into the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and the stomach) and causes aggravating symptoms.

Other names that you may have heard for GERD are acid reflux or heartburn. Often acid reflux is caused by muscle weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve that lets food and drinks into the stomach. [1,2,6]

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Symptoms are typically present after eating and can be different from person to person. The most common ones are: [1,6]

  • Heartburn or burning in the chest
  • Sour taste or burning feeling in the throat
  • Stomach pain
  • Difficulty swallowing food or choking
  • Sore throat or hoarse voice
  • Cough that is not relived by anything
  • Spitting up
  • Frequent burping
  • Asthma

How is GERD treated?

Treatment of acid reflux include lifestyle changes, antacids such as Tums, or stronger stomach acid suppressants like histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). [2,3]

Changes to diet or lifestyle can help control symptoms of heartburn and the following changes can be helpful: [2,3,4]

  • Stay away from foods and beverages that can lead to acid reflux or heartburn. Foods and beverages like: coffee, alcohol, chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, and citrus fruits/juices
  • Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches
  • Try eating smaller portions and avoid sleeping or lying down within 3 hours of eating a meal
  • Lose weight. Being overweight can contribute to GERD
  • Stop cigarette smoking
  • Wear loose fitting clothes

Do Antacids Treat GERD?

Antacids work by neutralizing or reducing the acidity of the stomach. They are used for milder symptoms and are taken as symptoms occur to relieve heartburn symptoms.  These drugs can affect the absorption of other drugs. Always ask your pharmacist to check for interactions with your current medications as well as how and when to take them.[4]

What Other Drugs Can Treat GERD?

Histamine 2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) work by suppressing acid secretion in the stomach. They are stronger than antacids in controlling heartburn symptoms. Overall, they are very well tolerated.[3]

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) also work by suppressing acid secretion in the stomach. They are used when heartburn symptoms are not well controlled by H2Ras or when symptoms are troublesome affecting quality of life.

PPIs work best when taken on empty stomach half an hour before the first meal of the day. PPIs may alter the way some drugs work. Ask your pharmacist or doctor to check for interactions with your current medications before taking them.[5]

Medicine
Type
Generic
Name
Regulatory
Status
Brand
Name
AntacidsCalcium CarbonateOTCTums
Aluminum hydroxide, magnesium
oxide and simethicone
OTC Maalox
Histamine 2 receptor antagonistsCimetidine OTC Tagamet
Famotidine OTC Pepcid
Nizatidine OTC Axid
Ranitidine OTC Zantac
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)EsomeprazoleRxNexium
DexlansoprazoleRxDexilant
Lansoprazole15mg – OTC Prevacid
Omeprazole OTC Prilosec
Omeprazole + sodium bicarbonate OTC Zegerid
PantoprazoleRxProtonix
RabeprazoleRxAciphex
OTC = over the counter (without prescription); Rx = prescription only; * Regulatory status obtained from FDA website [7]

All antacids and H2RAs are available over the counter whereas this would only apply to some PPIs. Sometimes these medicines are cheaper without a prescription. If cost is a concern for you ask your pharmacist to help you find ways to reduce your medication cost.[7]

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References:

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). In DynaMed Plus [database online]. EBSCO Information Services. http://www.dynamed.com.proxy.hsl.ucdenver.edu/topics/dmp~AN~T116914/Gastroesophageal-reflux-disease-GERD. Updated April 26, 2019. Accessed on 8/8/10/2019
  2. Patient education: Acid reflux (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) in adults. The Basics. In: UpToDate. [Internet]. Published place unknown: UpToDate; 2019 [cited date unknown). Available from  https://www-uptodate-com. Accessed on 8/10/2019
  3. Kahrilas PJ. Medical management of gastroesophageal reflux disease in adults. In: Talley NJ & Grover S (Editors). UpToDate. [Internet]. Published place unknown: UpToDate; 2019 [cited March 28, 2018]. Available from: https://www-uptodate-com. Accessed on 9/10/2019
  4. Vakil NB. Antiulcer medications: Mechanism of action, pharmacology, and side effects. In: Feldman M & Grover S (Editors). UpToDate. [Internet]. Published place unknown: UpToDate; 2019 [cited March 22, 2018]. Available from: https://www-uptodate-com. Accessed on 9/10/2019
  5. Wolfe MM. Proton pump inhibitors: Overview of use and adverse effects in the treatment of acid related disorders. In: Feldman M & Grover S (Editors). UpToDate. [Internet]. Published place unknown: UpToDate; 2019 [cited Nov 29, 2017]. Available from: https://www-uptodate-com. Accessed on 9/10/2019
  6. Kahrilas PJ, Shaheen NJ, Vaezi MF, et al. American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gastroenterology. 2008 Oct;135(4):1383-1391
  7. Over-The-Counter (OTC) Heartburn Treatment. U.S. Food & Drug Admiration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-information-consumers/over-counter-otc-heartburn-treatment. Published date unknown. Updated on March 5, 2018. Accessed 8/10/2019


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by Gabriel Rallison, PharmD. Candidate, Class of 2020
University of Arizona

If you follow recent news, you’ve probably heard about measles outbreaks cropping up in California1, Washington2, and New York.3 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, as of September 2019 there have been 1,241 confirmed cases of measles in the United States this year, a number already higher than the previous four years combined.4 With so many cases, this year marks the largest outbreak of measles in the United States in 27 years.5

What is measles?

Measles, also known as rubeola, is a viral disease that can lead to fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes.4 These symptoms will usually appear about 7 to 14 days after being infected, before which a person may not even know they are sick.

In addition, a few days after these symptoms start to show, a measles rash will appear. This rash normally starts on the face and spreads down the body, starting with small red spots that will merge over time. The rash will usually remain for about five days before fading away.

Why should I be concerned?

The measles virus is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing viruses into the surrounding area. Once in the air, the virus can remain there for up to 2 hours, with anyone passing through the area at risk of breathing in the virus and getting sick.3,4

This virus is very contagious, which means that if exposed people are not protected by a vaccine, they have a 9 out of 10 chance of catching the disease!2 While measles is technically considered eliminated in the US, recent cases come from unvaccinated people traveling outside of the country, catching measles abroad, and bringing it home with them.1,2,4

Measles symptoms generally are not very severe, but this disease can have very serious complications including:

  • permanent hearing loss
  • severe lung diseases
  • swelling of the brain
  • pregnancy complications
  • death.4

Before the vaccine for measles was developed, over 3 million people were infected annually, with 48,000 hospitalized and 400 dying from measles and related complications each year.

How can I protect myself?

The best protection for measles is the vaccination.1,2,3,4 The measles vaccination is available as a combination vaccination with mumps and rubella, together called the measles-mumps-rubella or MMR vaccine.4

This vaccine works by teaching your body’s immune cells what to watch out for and helps prepare the body’s defenses for the viral attack. The vaccine is very effective, and when used as recommended is 97% effective at preventing measles.4

For most adults, the CDC recommends getting one dose of the vaccine, with certain conditions requiring a second dose achieve full immunity.9 In small children, the recommendation is to get one dose at 1 year old, and a second dose between 4 to 6 years old.9 The vaccine can and should be given to children under 1 year of age if planning on traveling internationally.3,9

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes, the MMR vaccine has been shown in repeated studies and trials to be safe and effective.2,3,6 While there have been concerns expressed that vaccines may cause autism, dozens of studies over the last 25 years including tens of thousands of patients have found no link between vaccines and autism.7,8

Additionally, the vaccine component purported to cause harm, a preservative called thimerosal, has never been a part of the MMR vaccine.6 The most common side effect of vaccines is redness and soreness at the injection site, and in rare cases a mild fever or rash may arise.4

Where can I get the vaccine?

The MMR vaccine is available at your doctor’s office or your pharmacy and is free of charge with most insurance plans.  If you don’t have a regular doctor or pharmacy, you can use https://vaccinefinder.org/ to find a location near you.10

Pharmacies are especially convenient, with 9 in 10 Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy.  At most pharmacies, no appointment is required, and your pharmacist can have you vaccinated and on your way in mere minutes. So then, what are you waiting for?

References

  1. Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood Visitors Reportedly Exposed to Measles. TIME. Aug 24, 2019. https://time.com/5660904/new-zealand-teenager-measles-southern-california/ Accessed Sept 20, 2019.
  2. Measles Cases Mount in Pacific Northwest Outbreak. NPR News. Feb 8, 2019. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/02/08/692665531/measles-cases-mount-in-pacific-northwest-outbreak. Accessed Sept 23, 2019.
  3. US in danger of losing measles-free status, a ‘mortifying’ effect of anti-vax movement. USA Today. Sept 13, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/09/13/us-could-lose-measles-free-status-if-outbreak-continues-new-york/2300281001/ Accessed Sept 19, 2019.
  4. Measles (Rubeola). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.d. https://www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html Accessed Sept 19, 2019.
  5. U.S. measles cases reach highest level in 27 years. NBC News. May 31, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/u-s-measles-cases-reach-highest-level-27-years-n1012401 Accessed Sept 23, 2019.
  6. Vaccine Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.d. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/index.html Accessed Sept 20, 2019.
  7. Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism. Journal of the American Medical Association. April 21, 2015. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2275444 Accessed Sept 23, 2019.
  8. MMR Vaccine Does Not Cause Autism: Examine the evidence! Immunization Action Coalition. N.d. http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf Accessed Sept 23, 2019.
  9. Immunization Schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.d. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html Accessed Sept 19, 2019.
  10. Vaccine Finder. HealthMap.  N.d.  https://vaccinefinder.org/


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stress hurts your health image

by Cherokie Dyer, PharmD Candidate,
Class of 2020, University of Florida

When was the last time you felt stressed?

Stress is so common that there is an organization called, “The American Institute of Stress.” According to this group, there are 50 common signs and symptoms of stress. Many of the signs we think about when it comes to stress are difficulty making decisions, excessive anxiety, worry, guilt, and nervousness. Other common signs include increased frustration, irritability, and edginess. We can determine these signs based on our interactions with people. But… did you ever think about what stress is doing to your body on the inside?

How does Stress affect the body?

Stress can be a good thing in an emergency. It turns on your ‘fight or flight’ response. This gives you that ‘adrenaline rush’ feeling, which is the release of cortisol and epinephrine. Stress raises your blood pressure, makes your heart beat faster, and boosts sugar levels in your blood. It can also slow down your digestive tract, make your muscles tense up, and make your breathing become more rapid. All these bodily reactions are great to help you act during a crisis.

However, it’s not good when our bodies are constantly flooded with stress for a long period of time.

  • Heart racing and blood rushing may cause inflammation in arteries and lead to heart attacks or strokes.
  • Constant boosts in blood sugar can affect insulin and lead to pre-diabetes.
  • An impaired digestive tract can keep the body from getting valuable nutrients and lead to hard or loose stools.
  • Constantly tensed muscles can cause tension headaches and migraines.
  • Rapid breathing can cause hyperventilation and lead to panic attacks.
  • Increased cortisol may cause the body to hold on to belly fat.
  • These reactions can start to make the menstrual cycle irregular or lower sperm counts.
  • Stress can also affect eating patterns making us want to eat more or less than usual.

Believe it or not, constant stress can wreak havoc on our body in a multitude of other ways. Especially if you already have medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, or obesity. Your constant stress could very well be the thing that’s preventing your medications from helping you get better.

Two Key Strategies to Manage Stress

Try to prevent it and cope with it when it comes. Figure out the things that trigger your stress. Do your best to avoid them or work around them. For instance, if leaving on time for work stresses you out, invest in a new alarm or get up even earlier to give yourself more time.

There are other ways to prevent stress besides just avoiding your triggers.

  • Carve out some more alone time for yourself
  • Do more of the things that you bring you joy
  • Make the effort to get near 8 hours of sleep
  • Eat more fresh foods and whole foods
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine.

If you are already feeling stressed out, then there are a ton of options that you can try:

  • Calming activities like prayer, yoga, massages, and/or deep breathing
  • Active movements like going for walks, jogs, lifting weights, or taking group classes like kickboxing
  • More of your favorite hobby, listen to music you like, play with your pet more often, or participate in volunteer work.

The options are endless and there is no correct answer!

Bottom Line

Stress can be negative for both our sanity and our bodies. There are a variety of ways to deal with stress. Identify when you feel the most stressed out. Do your best to avoid that trigger and/or cope with those feelings, and your body will thank you in return.

References

https://www.stress.org/stress-effects
https://www.stress.org/military/combat-stress/management
https://www.stress.org/daily-life



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what is this med for image - wellrx

by Emily Ross, PharmD Candidate,
Class of 2020

Improving Medication Adherence and Management

Managing several different medications can be overwhelming, confusing and time-consuming. Without effective medication management, errors and missed doses may happen easily. This can lead to ineffective drug therapy and not getting results from taking medications. One key to proper medication management is organization. There are simple ways to create organizational systems into your daily routine to get the most benefit from your drug therapy.

Medication Management Tools

  • Pill Box: One of the simplest ways to keep medications organized is to use a daily or weekly pill box. There are a variety of sizes and colors to fit your needs. These range from simple ones that have a compartment for each day to more complex ones that have dividers for each dosage time (ex: morning, afternoon, evening).
  • Medication List: Keeping and maintaining a current list of all the medications you take is very useful to keep up to date on your treatment. It is important to include all over the counter drugs, supplements, and herbals that you may take as well. Taking this to your doctor appointments and the pharmacy ensures all your providers are aware of your medications and can help prevent duplicate drug therapies and potentially harmful drug interactions.
  • Medication App: There is an app for about anything – including managing your medications! There are several apps available to download to your phone or mobile device. Read about the different features of each one and then choose one that best meets your needs. These are available for both android and apple devices. Some examples are:
    • MyMeds: Connects patients, caregivers, and providers to help have better understanding of current medications
    • MyMedSchedule Plus: Simple and easy to use, offers reminders, pictures of medications and tracks how often the medication is taken
    • The ScriptSave WellRx App: In addition to providing prescription price transparency, the ScriptSave WellRx app allows patients to set Take Your Pill reminders, as well as when it’s time to refill prescriptions.

      The WellRx platform also provides free access to some potentially life-saving functionality:
      • Drug Interaction Warnings: Patients can receive and share warnings with their caregivers when drugs in their personal in-app Medicine Chest might interact with each other.
      • Lifestyle Interaction Warnings: This includes warnings about potential drug interactions with certain foods patients eat, or activities they might engage in.
      • Expanded Drug Information: Patients can view detailed information, images, and videos for drugs within the Medicine Chest. Much of this information is available in English and Spanish.

Tips for Managing Your Medications

Now that you have all your medications organized, the next step is remembering to take them! It is easy to forget or miss a dose of your medication but with a few helpful tips – you can minimize the amount of times this happens and improve adherence.  

  • Reminders: This can be as simple as programming a daily reminder or alarm into your phone that alerts you when it is time to take your medication. You could go the more classic route and have a note that is posted in a spot that you see it every day such as the bedside table, bathroom mirror or fridge. You can also set reminders in the ScriptSave WellRx mobile app.
  • Timers: If a device separate from your phone is more your style, there are several options that can provide an alarm or noise to help remind you that it is time to take medication. Likely, there are many items you already own, such as an alarm clock or kitchen timer, that can be set to the time you need to take medication. E-pill® offers several medication alarms and even has devices that combine pill boxes with reminder alerts.
  • Routine: Include taking medications into a daily routine. First, think of a task you do every day, such as brushing your teeth. Make a point to take your medication at the same time you brush your teeth. By joining the tasks together, taking your medications will become part of your daily routine and decrease the chance of missing a dose.
  • Medication Synchronization: Many pharmacies offer medication synchronization programs that allow you to pick up all your medications at one time. This not only cuts down on trips to the pharmacy but also lessens the chance of allowing a prescription to run out before returning to the pharmacy for more refills.
  • 90-Day Supply: If allowed by your insurance, obtaining a 90-day supply of medication is a good way to have adequate stock and minimize pharmacy trips. Similar to the idea of syncing your medications, there is less of a chance of running out of medication and missing doses.

With all these organization and adherence tips, you’ll be a pro at knowing your medication and taking them on time! There are many benefits that come from organization, such as reducing the stress of managing and taking multiple medications. Additionally, it may decrease health care cost by saving the need for more doctor appointment or medications due to gaps in drug therapy.

These are easy steps that can be done to increase how well your medicines work for you. By using the tools for a good organization system and following the adherence tips, you can improve your overall health and well-being.

References:

Fayed, L. (2019, June 24). How to Manage and Organize Medication for Your Safety. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/ways-to-manage-your-medication-514511

MyMeds: Redefining the Medication Experience. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://my-meds.com

MyMedSchedule: Free medication schedules, reminders, and health tracker. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://secure.medactionplan.com/mymedschedule/

Pill Timers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.epill.com/alarms.html

ScriptSave WellRx App Makes Medication Management Easier: https://news.wellrx.com/2019/01/23/scriptsave-wellrx-app-makes-medication-management-easier/



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Treatment for Depression and Anxiety: The Fight to End Suicide

by Cherokie Dyer, PharmD candidate class of 2020,
University of Florida

Alarming Suicide Statistics

Over the past 17 years, rates for death by suicide has dramatically risen here in the United States. From 1999 to 2016, 25 states had over a 30% increase in their suicide rates. There’s rarely any one reason for someone to commit suicide. However, most suicides are attributed to life stressors, loss of a relationship, and a recent or approaching crisis. Another huge contributor is the presence of a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety.

In the year of 2017, the CDC states that there were:

  • 44,965 suicide deaths
  • 13.9 suicide deaths per every 100,000 people
  • 39% of adults 18 and older had serious psychological distress in the past 30 days
  • 56.8 million physician visits resulted in mental, behavioral, and neurodevelopmental disorders as a diagnosis
  • 5.5 million emergency room visits were due to mental health disorders

The Good News

The amount of people being treated for depression and anxiety disorders is also rising. In 2012, the World Health Organization stated that 350 million people across the globe were affected by depressive disorder. This is followed with an increase in diagnosis and treatment of these disorders.

Common Anti-Depressant and Antianxiety medications include:

Brand Name Generic Name Drug Class
Zoloft Sertraline Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor
Lexapro Escitalopram Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor
Prozac Fluoxetine Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor
Wellbutrin Bupropion Dopamine/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor
Cymbalta Duloxetine Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor
Effexor Venlafaxine Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor
Pristiq Desvenlafaxine Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor
Remeron Mirtazapine Alpha-2 Antagonist
  Amitriptyline Tricyclic Antidepressant

It’s great that more people are getting help for their mental health conditions. The increase in people getting treatment will help to decrease the number of people wanting to harm themselves. If you have sought treatment for anxiety or depression or know someone who sought treatment, I am so happy! Everyone’s life is valuable. If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety or depression and hasn’t yet felt comfortable seeking treatment, don’t hesitate. The awareness of these conditions and options for treatment are expanding; set up an appointment to talk about what you are experiencing.

Things to Remember about your Antidepressants or Antianxiety Meds

These medications take time to work. In many cases, you won’t see an effect until after about 1 month. Taking your medications as prescribed can help strengthen their effectiveness and prevent side effects like dizziness, fatigue and nausea. If significant time passes and you still don’t feel any better, ask your doctor to try you on another medicine. Never quit these medicines abruptly as this can result in bothersome, and sometimes serious withdrawal symptoms. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instruction to taper these medications if it’s determined that they need to be stopped.

Outside of Medicine

Outside of prescription medication, these are 3 valuable ways to improve mental health. Incorporating these changes along with your medication can also increase their effectiveness.

Nutrition: Your body makes all your brain chemicals from the food you eat daily. That’s your protein, complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, whole grains), and good fats. If you don’t eat this kind of balanced diet, you may consider taking a daily multivitamin.

Sleep: Getting close to 8 hours of sleep each day gives your body the time to make more brain chemicals. It’s the best opportunity for your body to fix and replace other cells like the nerves and muscles.

Exercise:  Daily exercise improves your brain activity and increases the release of brain chemicals. A great example would be going for a brisk walk outside. The movement, along with getting at least 10 minutes of sun each day, is another great way to both exercise and get your daily vitamin D allowance. Not to mention exercise is a good way to relieve anxiety and avoid personal stressors! 

Suicide Lifeline

If you or someone you know are thinking about harming themselves in any way, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text HOME to 741741 to receive texts from the Crisis Text Line. If you feel there is an emergency, you should always call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

References:

Suicide Prevention websites:

https://www.crisistextline.org/

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Statistics:

https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/anxiety-disorders-and-depression-treatment-market

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mental-health.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a1.htm?s_cid=mm6722a1_w

Medication and Nutrition information:

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications-women/depression-medicines-help-you

http://www.martiefankhauser.com/


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by Jennifer Bingham, PharmD, BCACP & Stephanie Forbes, PharmD

The Prescription Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Pain is complex and the sensation and intensity can vary among individuals who are suffering, so there are many treatment options — mind-body techniques, acupuncture or physical therapy, and medications, both over the counter and prescription. For many patients with severe pain from injuries or surgery, opioid painkillers are supposed to provide pain relief, but because they have been heavily marketed and inappropriately prescribed, there has been an ever increasing number of deaths throughout the U.S. caused by misuse and addiction.

What is Narcan®?

Narcan® (naloxone hydrochloride) is an opioid antidote.1 It is indicated for patients that has suspected opioid overdose symptoms, such as respiratory and central nervous system depression.1 It is available in two formulations, including injectable and nasal preparations. The nasal spray contains one dose per unit,1 hence it is important to contact 9-1-1 for emergency medical assistance once opioid overdose is suspected to ensure additional assistance is available if needed. 

Who Should Use Narcan Nasal Spray?

Narcan nasal spray is intended for use by people who are experiencing an opioid overdose or are showing signs of opioid overdose.2,3 As mentioned above, it’s use is not a substitute for emergency medical care. Whenever administering Narcan, always call 9-1-1 right away.  Since it is an opioid antagonist, Narcan only works to reverse the effects of opioids, both prescription and non-prescription. Some examples of opioids it reverses are morphine, codeine, opium, hydrocodone, heroin and methadone.4

Who should have Narcan Nasal Spray?

People who receive Narcan are typically taking high doses of opioids for pain management over a long treatment period.2,5 Additionally, those taking extended-release or long-acting opioid medications or receive rotating opioid medication regimens may also have Narcan.   Patients who have a known hypersensitivity to naloxone hydrochloride should not use Narcan.1 Narcan access (needing a prescription) varies across states and the medication should be replaced before the expiration date passes.5

How to Store Narcan Nasal spray?

Narcan nasal spray should be stored in the blister and cartons provided until use.1 A controlled room temperature between 59°F to 77°F with protection from light is recommended for storage, and the product should not be frozen. The nasal spray may be stored at temperatures outside of this range (39°F to 104°F) for brief periods of time only.

Ask your pharmacist if you should talk to your provider about Narcan.

References:

  1. Narcan Nasal Spray (naloxone hydrochloride) [prescribing information]. Radnor, PA: Adapt Pharma Inc; January 2017.
  2. Naloxone. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/naloxone/. Last Updated April 11, 2019; Accessed June 3, 2019. 
  3. Coffin, Phillip MD, MIA. Prevention of lethal opioid overdose in the community. UptoDate®. Last Updated June 25, 2018. Accessed June 3, 2019.
  4. What Are Opioids. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/prevention/index.html. Last Updated May 15, 2018. Accessed June 4, 2019
  5. Opioid Overdose Reversal with Naloxone. National Institute of Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/opioid-overdose-reversal-naloxone-narcan-evzio/. Last Updated April 2018, Accessed June 3, 2019.

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steroid inhaler image - scriptsave wellrx blog

by Cindy Cho, PharmD Candidate Class of 2019,
The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Are You Doing This Important Step After Using Your Inhaler?

If you use an inhaler for a breathing condition, like asthma, you may have been told by your doctor that you will need to rinse your mouth with water and spit after you use your inhaler. It may seem like a cumbersome additional step, especially since it already takes time out of your day to use your inhaler, so why is it important to spend time to rinse and spit after using your inhaler?

Not All Inhalers Require You to Rinse and Spit

Just to clarify, you don’t need to rinse and spit with every inhaler. There are numerous inhalers on the market with different active ingredients and different purposes (For more on this, refer to this post on the difference between rescue and controller inhalers: (https://news.wellrx.com/2016/08/18/breathing-condition-meet-lifesaver/).

However, a common type of inhaler that does require you to rinse your mouth after each use is called an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) inhaler. ICS inhalers contain small amounts of steroids to help people breathe easier. Other types of inhalers have different active ingredients (e.g., albuterol, formoterol, tiotropium), so it is not necessary to rinse your mouth after using those.

Common ICS Inhalers

Examples of common ICS inhalers, or combination inhalers that contain a corticosteroid, are:

  • Advair Diskus & Advair HFA (fluticasone/salmeterol)
  • Aerobid (flunisolide)
  • Alvesco, Omnaris, Zetonna (ciclesonide)
  • Arnuity Ellipta (fluticasone furoate)
  • Asmanex (mometasone)
  • Azmacort (triamcinolone)
  • Dulera (mometasone/formoterol)
  • Flovent, Flovent HFA (fluticasone)
  • Pulmicort, Rhinocort (budesonide)
  • Qnasl, Qvar (beclomethasone)
  • Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol)

If you are using one of these inhalers or have been told that your inhaler contains a steroid in it, you will need to rinse your mouth with water and spit after each use.

Why do I Have to Rinse and Spit with ICS Inhalers?

ICS inhalers have a small amount of corticosteroid medication that reduces inflammation in your bronchial tubes and ultimately open your airways to help you breathe easier.1 These medications can be delivered through metered dose inhalers, dry powder inhalers, or through a nebulizer. When you breathe in your steroid inhaler medication, a small amount of steroid can stick to your mouth and throat as it makes its way into your lungs to help you breathe. If this small amount of steroid is not rinsed out from the inside of your mouth or throat, it can cause a fungal infection known as thrush.2

What You Need to Know About Thrush3

Oral thrush in adults generally looks like thick, white or cream-colored spots inside the mouth. The inside lining of your mouth may appear swollen and slightly red and may feel uncomfortable or a burning sensation. The good thing is that thrush is a treatable infection. Your doctor will prescribe an antifungal medicine in the form of a tablet, gel, lozenge, or mouthwash to help treat it. The better news is that this condition is preventable with proper rinsing and spitting.  

What You Can Do

Make sure to rinse your mouth with water and spit after using your ICS inhaler to prevent thrush. Another way to make it easier for you to incorporate rinsing your mouth after using your ICS inhaler is to brush your teeth after using your inhaler. As a friendly reminder, your ICS inhaler should be used on a routine basis, unless your doctor tells you otherwise, even when your breathing seems better. These inhalers will help maintain your breathing over time to prevent breathing-related complications and keep you out of the hospital.

References:

  1. Barnes PJ. Inhaled Corticosteroids. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(3):514-540. Published 2010 Mar 8. doi:10.3390/ph3030514
  2. Shuto H, Nagata M, Terashi Y, Yamaguchi M, Takizawa T, Shuto C, Watanabe K, Tosaka K, Okano M, Noguchi H. Esophageal candidiasis as complication of inhaled steroid therapy. Arerugi 2003; 52(11)1053–1064
  3. Oral thrush – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/oral-thrush/symptoms-causes/syc-20353533. Published March 8, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2019.

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by Ryan Lowe, PharmD Candidate,
University of Arizona

The More Medications, The Merrier?

Have you ever heard of the term “polypharmacy” before? When you break that word down you get “poly”, which means multiple, and “pharmacy”, which means medications. Polypharmacy is defined as the use of multiple drugs, or more than are medically necessary.1 Depending on who you’re talking to will determine where their cut off is for ‘multiple drugs’, with some thinking as few as three is considered polypharmacy, while others say you need as many as five.

An example of using more drugs than are medically necessary would be having two blood pressure medications when your blood pressure has been running low. There are a lot of concerns about polypharmacy, especially in the elderly population.

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Polypharmacy in the Elderly

A study published in 2004 wanted to find out how prevalent polypharmacy was in the nursing home setting. With over 13,000 patients in the study, they found that approximately 40% of them were taking 9 or more medications.2 While 9 medications may seem absurd, as this study shows it’s not that unheard of.

As you can well imagine, taking multiple medications can lead to a variety of potential concerns. First off, the more medications you take means the more money it will cost to pay for those medications. Added hospital or clinic visits to manage those medications also contribute to the rise in costs. Another major concern is that of drug side effects, commonly referred to as Adverse Drug Events (ADEs).

Some patients report a side effect to one medication which then gets an entirely new medication to replace it. This can lead to a cycle of adding new medications which leads to polypharmacy. The more medications you must take also makes it harder to remember when to take them. Some patients struggle to take only one or two medications every day, so having upwards of nine becomes a very daunting task. Despite all these risks, there is still one concern that is at the forefront of any pharmacist’s mind: drug interactions.

The Major Risk of Drug Interactions in Polypharmacy

Drug-drug interactions, or DDIs, happen when one medication interferes with the way another medication works in your body. If you are taking nine medications at the same time, there is a much greater risk that at least two of those drugs will interact with one another. These interactions can range from the benign to the severe, sometimes increasing the effect of one drug or preventing it from doing its job.

Here is a list of some (but not all) of the most common drug interactions:

  • Warfarin: If you take warfarin to help thin your blood to prevent a stroke or DVT, you should know that warfarin has numerous DDIs. Ibuprofen or Aleve should be avoided when taking warfarin, and many antibiotics can also affect the level of warfarin in your body.
  • Grapefruit: You may have heard about some drugs interacting with grapefruit (including juice), but what drugs and why? Grapefruit can block an enzyme in your body that many drugs use as their metabolizing agent. When this happens, the amount of drug rises in your body to sometimes dangerous levels. If you’re taking any of these drugs then you should avoid eating grapefruit: some statin medications (like simvastatin and atorvastatin), nifedipine, cyclosporine, buspirone, amiodarone, and fexofenadine (generic Allegra).3
  • Levothyroxine: When you take levothyroxine, you’re supposed to take it one hour before you eat breakfast in the morning. This is because levothyroxine interacts with almost every food you can think of. If you take the drug with breakfast, lunch, or dinner then it will not be able to absorb fully, and it won’t reach its desired effect.

There are several tools available to check for drug interactions. The free ScriptSave WellRx app has a feature that allows you to check the medications you are taking for any harmful interactions. The app also has a lot of other useful features. For example, you can set reminders for taking your medications in case you have a hard time keeping track of them all, or when to refill them. You can also look up information about your medications including what it should like and possible side effects. The app is available for both Apple and Android, and can also be used in Spanish! If you still have questions, you can call the Ask a Pharmacist line at 1-866-268-2611 to speak to a pharmacist directly.

References:

  1. Maher, Robert L, et al. “Clinical Consequences of Polypharmacy in Elderly.” Expert Opinion on Drug Safety, vol. 13, no. 1, 2013, pp. 57–65., doi:10.1517/14740338.2013.827660
  2. Dwyer, Lisa L., et al. “Polypharmacy in Nursing Home Residents in the United States: Results of the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey.” The American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy, vol. 8, no. 1, 8 Feb. 2010, pp. 63–72., doi:10.1016/j.amjopharm.2010.01.001.
  3. “Consumer Updates – Grapefruit Juice and Some Drugs Don’t Mix.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Office of the Commissioner, 18 July 2017, www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm292276.htm.

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by Ryan Lowe, PharmD Candidate,
The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

For many patients with diabetes, insulin has become a mainstay of their therapy. Despite the addition of newer drugs on the market (like the exciting GLP-1 agonists such as Victoza (liraglutide), insulin remains a popular choice among physicians for its numerous benefits. The dose of insulin can be easily adjusted; if your blood sugars are running high then simply try taking two more units and reevaluate in a couple of days. Insulin is also a great drug when used in combination with other medications such as metformin; these combinations allow for greater control of a patient’s diabetes. According to a study from the CDC, the percent of patients taking both insulin and an oral medication increased between 1997 and 2011. This suggests the importance of both types of medication in diabetes management. 1

What are the different types of Insulin available?

Insulin can be divided up into two categories: long acting and short acting. Most patients start out with a long acting insulin before a short acting insulin is added. The most common long acting insulin is Insulin Glargine, or Lantus. Another long acting insulin you may see is Insulin Detemir, or Levemir. These insulins are normally dosed once a day, and they work to keep your fasting sugars (your blood sugar when you’re not eating any food) within normal limits.  The most common side effect of long acting insulin is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. When you take too much insulin your body eats up too much glucose, resulting in low blood sugar levels. If you are hypoglycemic then you may start shaking, feeling dizzy or faint, and feel confused or anxious. The quickest remedy for this is eating a high sugar snack or drink, such as a glass of orange juice. As noted earlier, one of the main benefits of long acting insulin is being able to adjust the dose more frequently to find the perfect dose for you. With a tablet medication it is harder to find the perfect middle ground; you either take one tablet or you take two. Insulin doesn’t work that way; since insulin is a liquid injection you can easily take a little more or a little less than you were previously to account for your blood sugar levels.

Short acting insulin works much quicker than the long acting insulins, hence the name. There are two common short acting insulins: Insulin Lispro, or Humalog and Insulin Aspart, or Novolog. These insulins are commonly taken after a meal. The idea behind this is that the insulin will counteract a large spike in blood sugar gained by eating a large meal. However, these insulins are rarely taken alone; rather they are normally used in combination with long acting insulin to combat both types of sugars: fasting and post-prandial, or post-eating sugars. Hypoglycemia is still a risk with these short acting insulins, but it isn’t as great a risk as with the long acting insulins. One consideration that has been on many patient’s mind, however, is the rising cost of insulin – and Humalog specifically has been in the news lately.

Why is Humalog making headlines?

Humalog is a short acting insulin manufactured by Eli Lilly, a drug company responsible for numerous popular medications. Eli Lilly released some pricing information about Humalog, and the numbers are raising some eyebrows among patients, healthcare providers, and even politicians. An insured patient will typically pay around $135 a month for Humalog (which is a decrease of 8.1% from 2014). When you don’t factor in the rebates typically covered by an insurance company, the monthly price of Humalog rises to $549.2 These differences have gotten a lot of people talking. Eli Lilly hopes that the information they released will help shed some light on the often-muddled issue of rising drug costs. Politicians on both sides seem to agree that drug costs need to come down in America, but the solution to this issue is not an easy one. Eli Lilly themselves hope to improve the situation by releasing a “half-price” Humalog under the generic name Insulin Lispro. The cost will be $137.35 per vial, which should significantly improve the annual cost for those uninsured patients with diabetes.3

In response to the Eli Lilly price drop for Humalog, Sanofi recently announced a program that they hope will make a difference in the cost of insulin.4 They unveiled a Netflix-like program that takes that model directly to patients, supplying insulin products for a flat monthly rate instead of the usual cost per prescription or refill. The drugmaker will use its Insulin Valyou Savings Program to deliver insulin products for $99 per month. For that monthly fixed price, Sanofi will offer up to 10 boxes of insulin pens and 10 mL vials per month, regardless of a patient’s income. The new $99-per-month price could be as little as one-tenth of the amount patients would have paid previously.

References:

  1. “Age-Adjusted Percentage of Adults with Diabetes Using Diabetes Medication, by Type of Medication, United States, 1997–2011.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Nov. 2012, www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/meduse/fig2.htm.
  2. Lovelace Jr., Berkeley. “Eli Lilly Sheds Light on Confidential Pricing, Discloses Charges for Popular Diabetes Drug Humalog.” CNBC, CNBC, 25 Mar. 2019, cnbc.com/2019/03/25/eli-lilly-discloses-pricing-data-for-its-popular-insulin-humalog.html.
  3. “Lilly to Launch a Half-Price Version of Insulin.” CNBC, CNBC, 4 Mar. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/03/04/lilly-to-launch-a-half-price-version-of-insulin.html.
  4. “Sanofi provides unprecedented access to its insulins for one set monthly price” Sanofi, 10 Apr. 2019   http://www.news.sanofi.us/2019-04-10-Sanofi-provides-unprecedented-access-to-its-insulins-for-one-set-monthly-price 

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by Haley Stenquist, PharmD Candidate Class of 2019
The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

A new group of generic medications are hitting the prescription drug market in 2019. At ScriptSave, we get a lot of questions about generic medications vs. brand name prescription drugs. “A” rated generics meet the same quality standards as brand name prescription drugs and so they provide the same medical benefits. A drug that is “A” rated by the FDA as a generic equivalent contains identical active ingredients as the brand name drug, the same dosage as the brand name drug, and delivers the same concentrations of drug to the bloodstream within the same amount of time. So what are the differences and what’s coming to a pharmacy near you?

Are Generic Drugs the Same as Brand Name?

Yes, generic drugs are “copies” of the brand name medication that was developed by a company other than the one that originally brought the branded medication to market. Generic drugs are available for a fraction of the price of brand name medications, so consumers are naturally eager for the generics to hit the market. Per the FDA guidelines, a generic drug application must first display the following parameters:

  • The generic drug is “pharmaceutically equivalent” to the brand
  • The manufacturer is capable of making the drug correctly
  • The manufacturer is capable of making the drug consistently
  • The “active ingredient” is the same as that of the brand
  • The right amount of the active ingredient gets to the place in the body where it has effect
  • The “inactive” ingredients of the drug are safe
  • The drug does not break down over time
  • The container in which the drug will be shipped and sold is appropriate
  • The label is the same as the brand-name drug’s label
  • Relevant patents or legal exclusivities are expired2

How Long Does It Take for a Drug to Become Generic?

After an application for a patent of a new drug is filed with the United States, it is granted patent exclusivity for 20 years.  The path to generic drugs coming to market was made cheaper, easier, and faster after the introduction of the Drug Price Competition and Patent-Term Restoration Act of 1984 or known as the Hatch-Waxman Act. This allowed companies to submit an abbreviated new drug application (ANDA). About one year before the expiration of the patent drug, companies that are wanting to manufacture the generic drug will submit the ANDA to the FDA. Generally, after that patent has expired and the ANDA is approved, a generic counterpart can be introduced into the market.1

First Generic Drug Approvals for 2019

Currently, the FDA has approved 16 first-time generics in 2019 between different manufacturers (each manufacturer must submit their own ANDA). These include:

  • pyridostigmine bromide syrup—Mestinon Syrup
    • Improves muscle strengths in patients with myasthenia gravis
    • Novitium Pharma LLC—03/08/2019
  • levofloxacin ophthalmic solution, 1.5%—Iquix Ophthalmic Solution
    • Treatment of corneal ulcer caused by certain bacteria
    • Micro Labs Limited, India—02/27/2019
  • deferiprone tablets, 500mg—Ferriprox Tablets
    • Treatment of transfusional iron overload due to thalassemia syndromes
    • Taro Pharmaceuticals Industries Limited—02/08/2019
  • sevelamer hydrochloride tablets, 400mg, 800mg—Renagel Tablets
    • Control of serum phosphorus in patient with chronic kidney disease
    • Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Limited—02/08/2019
  • levomilnacipran extended-release capsules, 20mg, 40mg, 80mg, 120mg—Fetzima
    • Treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD)
    • Amneal Pharmaceuticals Company GmbH—02/04/2019
  • acyclovir cream, 5%—Zovirax Cream
    • Treatment of recurrent cold sores in immunocompetent patients over 12 years of age
    • Perrigo UK FINCO Limited Partnership—02/04/2019
  • Wixela Inhub (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder, USP) 100mcg/50mcg, 250mcg/50mcg, 500mcg/50mcg—Advair Diskus
    • Treatment of asthma in patient over 4 years of age and COPD maintenance (250mcg/50mcg)
    • Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.—01/30/2019
  • sirolimus oral solution, 1 mg/mL—Rapamune
    • Prophylaxis of kidney organ rejection in patient over 13 years of age
    • Novitium Pharma LLC—01/28/2019
  • vigabatrin tablets USP, 500mg—Sabril Tablets
    • Treatment of refractory complex partial seizures (CPS) in patients over 10 years of age that have failed multiple alternative treatments
    • Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.—01/14/2019
  • ingenol mebutate gel, 0.05%, 0.015%—Picato Gel
    • Treatment of topical acne
    • Perrigo UK PINCO Limited Partnership—01/07/2019 (0.015%) and 01/09/2019 (0.05%)
  • lurasidone hydrochloride tablets, 20mg, 40mg, 60mg, 80mg, 120mg—Latuda Tablets
    • Treatment of schizophrenia and depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder in adults
    • Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited, Accord Healthcare Inc., Lupin Limited, InvaGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Amneal Pharmaceuticals Company GmbH—01/03/20193

Newest Generics of 2019

  • As of 03/12/2019, the FDA approved a new generic of Diovan (valsartan) among the vast recalls from multiple manufacturers, this was granted to Alkem Laboratories Limited.4
  • Lannett announced FDA approval for aspirin and extended-release dipyridamole capsules, 25mg/200mg—Aggrenox Capsules for secondary prevention of stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIA) on 03/27/2019.5

Forecasted Generics for the Remainder of 2019

The Impact of Generics

It is a long, grueling process for a brand name medication to finally be released to the market as a generic, taking in excess of 20 years. Generic medications are instrumental in helping alleviate the financial burden of prescription medication costs in patients. Each year, the effect continues to grow. In the first quarter 2019, there is already a large impact with new generic medications coming to market. This impact is forecast to continue throughout the year, especially with the possibility of heavy hitters such as Lyrica and Restasis.

References:

  1. “S.1538 – 98th Congress (1983-1984): An Act to Amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to Revise the Procedures for New Drug Applications, to Amend Title 35, United States Code, to Authorize the Extension of the Patents for Certain Regulated Products, and for Other Purposes.” gov, 24 Sept. 1984, www.congress.gov/bill/98th-congress/senate-bill/01538.
  2. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Generic Drugs – What Is the Approval Process for Generic Drugs?” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/genericdrugs/ucm506040.htm .
  3. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “First Generic Drug Approvals.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, fda.gov/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/HowDrugsareDevelopedandApproved/DrugandBiologicApprovalReports/
    ANDAGenericDrugApprovals/default.htm
    .
  4. Office of the Commissioner. “Press Announcements – FDA Provides Update on Its Ongoing Investigation into ARB Drug Products; Reports on Finding of a New Nitrosamine Impurity in Certain Lots of Losartan and Product Recall.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Office of the Commissioner, fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm632425.htm.
  5. “Generic Drug for Stroke Prevention Granted FDA Approval.” Pharmacy Times, pharmacytimes.com/news/genericdrug-granted-fda-approval.
  6. “Pipeline Report Generic Drugs .” Welldynerx. welldynerx.com/content/uploads/2019/02/Generic-Drugs-Feb-2019-2-12-19.pdf.
  7. “Upcoming Generic Drugs.” Corporate Pharmacy Services, corporatepharmacy.com/page/upcoming_generic_drugs.

 

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by Jamie L. Voigtmann, PharmD Candidate 2019
Saint Louis College of Pharmacy

In 2014, approximately 4 million people in the United States were infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), acute HCV infections reported in the United States increased approximately 3.5 times from 2010-2016 (from 850 to 2,967 cases).2 The speculated reasons for this massive increase have been due to increased intravenous drug use (IVDU) as well as more specific & sensitive testing.

There are six genotypes of HCV that have been identified; but of these six, only three make up 97% of HCV infections in the United States.1 These three genotypes include Type 1 (both subtypes a & b), Type 2, and Type 3. HCV was initially discovered in 1989 and since then, a search for a cure has become imminent as HCV plays a major role in the development of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and commonly ends in the need for liver transplantation.3

Hepatitis Medications Today

Multiple medications have been proven to treat and/or cure of HCV. A cure is defined as a sustained virologic response (SVR) resulting in an undetectable HCV RNA, 12-24 weeks after treatment is completed.1 In the past, a medication called interferons were used to boost the immune system and attack HCV to defend the body; but in the 2017 AASLD/IDSA Guidelines, interferons are no longer recommended in the treatment of HCV.4 Ribavirin has also been used for acute HCV in the past, but now is only indicated for chronic cases of HCV.7 With both interferon and ribavirin, virological response did not often exceed 50%. Since 2014, four once daily HCV medications have been FDA approved for the treatment of acute HCV in naïve patients that exceed a virological response of 90% after 12 weeks of therapy.4

These more novel hepatitis medications consist of multiple drugs with differing modes of action. There are three classes of drugs that are used to treat HCV and they are called direct acting antivirals (DAA) because they directly attack the HCV genome and replication process.4 These three DAA classes include: NS3/4A Protease Inhibitors, NS5A Inhibitors, and NS5B Polymerase Inhibitors (Nucleoside & Non-Nucleoside).4 All of these medications inhibit replication of HCV in the host cell, stopping the life cycle and preventing its transmission to other host cells. Below is a picture that further explains the mechanism of action of each DAA along with each HCV drug and its corresponding DAA class.5

hepatitis c vaccinations - scriptsave wellrx blog imageDirect Acting Antiviral Classes5

  • NS3/4A Protease Inhibitors
    • Boceprevir
    • Telaprevir
    • Simeprevir
    • Asunaprevir
    • Paritaprevir
    • Grazoprevir
    • Glecaprevir
  • NS5A Inhibitors
    • Daclatasvir
    • Ledipasvir
    • Ombitasvir
    • Elbasvir
    • Velpatasvir
    • Pibrentasvir
  • NS5B Polymerase Inhibitors
    • Sofosbuvir
    • Dasabuvir

Comparing Four Novel HCV Medications6

As mentioned previously, there are four HCV medications approved by the FDA that are one pill taken once daily and can result in cure. These medications include Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), Zepatier (elbasvir/grazoprevir), Epclusa (velpatasvir/sofosbuvir), and Mavyret (glecaprevir/pibrentasvir). Harvoni was approved by the FDA in 2014, Zepatier and Epclusa in 2016, and finally Mavyret in 2017. This is relevant because the two more recent drugs, Epclusa and Mavyret, treat all 6 genotypes of HCV while Harvoni and Zepatier are both first line therapy for genotypes 1 and 4.7

Unlike their differing genotype coverage, side effects for all four of these medications are quite similar. The most common side effects include headache, fatigue, and nausea and the instances for these side effects are approximately 16%, 13%, and 9%, respectively. Other more severe side effects (anemia, diarrhea, insomnia, and irritability) have been reported with these medications but only in combination with interferon or ribavirin as well as with prolonged therapy between 16-24 weeks.5

Cost of Therapy

According to current HCV Guidelines, Harvoni, Zepatier, and Epclusa require 12 weeks (84 days) of therapy.7 Mavyret can be either 8 weeks (56 days) or 12 weeks of therapy depending on the patient’s baseline liver disease.7 Unfortunately, considering both the high cost of medication as well as the long duration of therapy does not allow all patient’s to receive treatment. Harvoni and Epclusa have generics available for patients, and the Brand Name options of Zepatier and Mavyret are thankfully in the same price range as the other generic options. The cost of one tablet for these medications is as follows:6

  • Harvoni:
    • Brand Name: $1,350
    • Generic: $500
  • Epclusa:
    • Brand Name: $1,050
    • Generic: $350
  • Zepatier:
    • Brand Name: $300
  • Mavyret:
    • Brand Name: $200

Because these medications are very costly, a 12-week drug treatment regimen of therapy ranges from $16,800 to $113,400. This is a problem. Many patient’s simply do not have this amount of money to spend on one prescription. This further leads to controversial discussions because as mentioned earlier, HCV plays a major role in the development of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and commonly ends in the need for liver transplantation.3

Fortunately, there are patient assistance programs and copay cards offered by the manufacturers of these medications which allow a minimum cost of $0 with patient assistance programs and a minimum cost of $5 for copay cards per 4-week supply. Harvoni and Epclusa are manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Zepatier is manufactured by Merck, and Mavyret is manufactured by AbbVie.

Patient assistance programs require paperwork completed by the patient as well as the prescribing physician. Copay cards only work for Brand Name medications and most commonly require private insurance as a primary payor (not government funded insurances such as Tricare, Medicare, or Medicaid). For more information, check out these websites:

If you need help affording other prescription medications, visit www.WellRx.com. Many prices are lower than insurance copay costs!

References

  1. Kohli A, Shaffer A, Sherman A, Kottilil S. Treatment of hepatitis C: a systematic review. JAMA. 2014;312(6):631-640.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for viral hepatitis – united states, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/2016surveillance/commentary.htm. Accessed on February 13, 2019.
  3. Chen SL, Morgan TR. The natural history of hepatitis c virus (hcv) infection. Int J Med Sci. 2006;3(2):47-52.
  4. Geddawy A, Ibrahim YF, Elbahie NM, Ibrahim MA. Direct acting anti-hepatitis c virus drugs: clinical pharmacology and future direction. J Transl Int Med. 2017;5(1): 8–17.
  5. Dugum M, O’Shea R. Hepatitis c virus: here comes all-oral treatment. Clev Clin J Med. 2014;81(3):159-172.
  6. HCV Treatments: Harvoni, Zepatier, Epclusa, & Mavyret. Lexi-Drugs. Lexicomp. Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Riverwoods, IL. Available at: http://online.lexi.com. February 13, 2019.
  7. Recommendations for testing, managing, and treating hepatitis c. Joint panel from the American Association of the Study of Liver Disease and the Infectious Diseases Society of America. https://www.hcvguidelines.org. Accessed February 13, 2019.

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by Cindy Cho, PharmD Candidate Class of 2019,
The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

When most people think of a diet that leads to poor diabetes control, they may think of a diet high in carbs and sugar. While those types of food do impact your blood sugars, consuming too many saturated fats can be an enemy against diabetes control,too. This is because a hallmark of pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and worsening type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance.

Saturated Fat and Insulin Resistance

First, what is insulin? Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas to control your blood sugar levels. Insulin helps move the sugar from the blood into your cells for storage and energy. In other words, insulin is the key that unlocks the door of our muscle cells to let sugars in. Insulin resistance in the state of your body where insulin is not responding properly to move the sugar into the cells, which causes a rise in blood sugars as a result. The pathophysiology of insulin resistance is somewhat convoluted, but what is known is that saturated fat plays a role. It has been known since 1927 that increased consumption of fat delays the process of blood sugars going into the cells, which means that sugars hang around longer in the bloodstream.1 The results of both animal and human studies also show that a high intake of saturated fat is associated with insulin resistance and development of type 2 diabetes.2 This is because an uncontrolled state of insulin resistance leads to a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. People are also at higher risk of insulin resistance if they are overweight or obese.

Not All Fats are Bad

Contrary to the connotation of the word, not all fats are unhealthy. Two main sources of fat that we will focus on are saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found commonly in animal products, such as red meats and dairy products. On the other hand, unsaturated fats come from mainly plant based sources and consists of foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Studies have shown that in people with diabetes, saturated fats cause insulin resistance whereas unsaturated fats can improve insulin sensitivity.3 Because of this, the consumption of vegetables fats is favored in place of animal fats and processed grains.3 Not only are plant based foods lower in saturated fats, they are generally lower in calories and jam-packed with nutrients and fiber to nourish the body.

Ways to Improve Insulin Resistance

Lifestyle changes, particularly diet, address ones of the root causes of type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance. Following a plant-based diet can be a solution since animal products can contain a high amount of saturated fat. A plant-based diet generally includes legumes, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and discourages most animal products and refined foods.4 The Adventist 2 study, which included about 89,000 people extended across 50 years, demonstrated a substantial decrease in diabetes incidence in those who ate a vegetarian diet. The study also suggested that those who eat meat once or more days a week have significantly higher rates of diabetes.5 Plant-based diets also have been shown to work better in reducing blood sugars, body weight, and cardiovascular risk compared to diets that include animal-based products.6

Plant-based eating patterns, such as the DASH diet, healthy Mediterranean, and healthy vegetarian diets, have been shown to be associated with better health and lower risk for disease according to nutritional epidemiology, randomized controlled intervention trials, and most literature.7 These diets are also appropriate for the vast majority of people. Furthermore, exercise, with or without weight loss, helps improve insulin sensitivity so your body can use the insulin it naturally produces better.8 That in turn can mean lower doses of your diabetes medications, or even coming off the diabetes medications altogether, which can lower your costs on how much you spend on diabetes care. It is shown that after adjusting for population age and sex differences, the average medical expenses for people living with diabetes were about 2.3 times high than people who do not have diabetes.9

Dangers of Uncontrolled Blood Sugars

Controlling blood sugars is important because the longer a high amount of glucose is in the bloodstream, the more damage it can cause to your blood vessels, nerves, and tissues. Therefore, it is very important to have your doctors check your feet, eyes, and kidneys at least yearly if you have diabetes. People with uncontrolled blood sugars are also at higher risk for cardiovascular complications like heart attacks and strokes and are more prone to infections.10 Plant-based diets have demonstrated improvements in blood sugar control, which can possibly reduce or prevent the incidence of long-term complications of type 2 diabetes.

What You Can Do

Talk to your doctor or dietitian about eating more plant-based foods. It may also be easier to think of changes to what you eat as a lifestyle choice instead of as a diet. Small changes to the foods you consume can make a big impact on your health in the long run. Eating healthier doesn’t mean it has to be more expensive either. Shopping for produce in season, or even visiting your local 99 cent store that carries groceries can be helpful methods to save you money and keep you healthy too. You don’t have to be vegan to experience the benefits of a plant-based diet either. Any steps you take to adding more plant-based foods onto your plate can improve your blood sugars.5

Key Takeaways

To summarize, striving to increase the amount of plant-based foods you eat, minimize consumption of animal-based foods, increase your physical activity, along with taking your diabetes medications regularly, can make a positive impact on your blood sugars and overall health!

References:

  1. Dietary Factors That Influence The Dextrose Tolerance Test, J. Shirley Sweeney MD, Archives of Internal Medicine, December 1927
  2. ARIC Study Investigators; Plasma fatty acid composition and incidence of diabetes in middle-aged adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 1, 1 July 2003, Pages 91–98, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/78.1.91
  3. Rachek, L. (2014). Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science (pp. 267-292). Elsevier.
  4. McMacken M, Shah S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):342-354.
  5. Tonstad, S., Stewart, K., Oda, K., Batech, M., Herring, R., & Fraser, G. (2013). Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases,23(4), 292-299. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2011.07.004
  6. Trapp, Caroline B., and Neal D. Barnard. “Usefulness of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets for Treating Type 2 Diabetes.” Current Diabetes Reports, vol. 10, no. 2, 2010, pp. 152–158., doi:10.1007/s11892-010-0093-7.
  7. Laddu, D., & Hauser, M. (2019). Addressing the Nutritional Phenotype Through Personalized Nutrition for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. Progress In Cardiovascular Diseases, 62(1), 9-14. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.12.004
  8. Duncan GE, Perri MG, Theriaque DW, Hutson AD, Eckel RH, Stacpoole PW: Exercise training, without weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity and postheparin plasma lipase activity in previously sedentary adults. Diabetes Care 26:557–562, 2003
  9. Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017. (2018). Diabetes Care, 41(5), 917-928. doi: 10.2337/dci18-0007
  10. American Diabetes Association. 2019 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/Supplement_1. Published December 17, 2018. Accessed December 17, 2018.

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