keep an eye on diabetes - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

by Pawel F. Kojs
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Living with diabetes is not an easy task, however, you are not alone. Roughly 415 million people across the world are affected with this disease. If you have diabetes, you should consider several things, such as lifestyle, medication adherence, and check-ups with your healthcare provider. These are important to make sure that your diabetes is controlled and doesn’t lead to a deterioration in your overall health. Keeping blood sugars controlled can prevent serious problems like diabetic cardiomyopathy, stroke, and atherosclerosis4. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound a cure.

Tests to Keep Your Diabetes in Check

According to Kaiser Permanente, there are several exams that a person living with Diabetes should consider1:

Weight and blood pressure: checked at every doctor’s visit.1

A1C (Glycosylated hemoglobin): This is a test that is meant to be done every three months. Blood test that shows your average blood sugar for the past two to three months. This is done by measuring the amount of glucose attached to your blood cells1.

The A1c target is usually less than 7% for people with diabetes. However, your provider will decide the ideal A1c target for you3.

Urine check: This annual test is done to look for small proteins which show signs of early kidney damage1.

Lipid blood test: This test performed once every two years checks the level of your triglycerides, total ( “good” and “bad” cholesterol)1.

The following tests are recommended to be checked every 2 years if you have Type 2 Diabetes with no symptoms, or had Type 1 Diabetes for more than 5 years1

Eye Exam: Diabetes can affect your vision. Exams checks for any nerve damage of the eye. If you have nerve damage of the eye then it is recommended to see the doctor yearly1.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines, pregnant women with preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the exam should be done in the first trimester. Patients should then be monitored at every trimester and for 1 year after giving birth2.

Foot Exam: Diabetes can affect your feet. This test performed at least annually is to examine the feet. Tests are done more often if you have any positive findings1. This checks for any numbness, sores, infections, and calluses1,3.

Vaccines: According to the ADA, vaccines are recommended for diabetic patients. The flu vaccine is recommended for all people greater than 6 months of age. A 3-dose series of Hepatitis B vaccine should be given to people ages 19-59. People over the age of 60 should be considered for a 3 dose Hepatitis B vaccine. A PPSV23 Vaccine is recommended for people between the ages of 2-64 years of age and after age 65, the PPSV23 vaccine is necessary even if you had a vaccine in the past2.

Diabetes management does not end in the doctor’s office. It all starts with the goals that you have set out for yourself. Whether it’s controlling your blood pressure or reducing your weight, this requires small and achievable goals. Set a goal too big and you will become overwhelmed. Talk over your goals with your healthcare provider. Putting in a consistent effort to maintain or achieve your diabetic goals will produce worthy results.

 

References:


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

Nearly 20% of Americans have self reported an allergy to a medication and roughly 4% of the nation suffers from some form of food allergy.1 While it would seem obvious to avoid something if you’re allergic to it, you’d first have to know you’re allergic. When it comes to medications this can be challenging.

There are different grades to an allergic reaction. It could be as mild as some pesky itching or a cough; a more serious fever, rash or painful blisters; or very serious blood irregularities, difficulty breathing or death.2,3 Allergic reactions can occur within many different classes of medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, anesthetics, narcotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), among others.1

Excipients – Crucial for Drug Delivery

When you take medication, there is more than just an active drug inside the tablet, capsule, spray or syrup; these additional “inert” products are called excipients4. Excipients play a variety of roles in medications. They are used to stabilize the active drug, bind the active drug(s), increase the solubility, enhance or delay absorption (such as enteric coated tablets), and provide flavor or sweetness.4 Some excipients come from foods that people have an allergy to. The most common food allergies in the United States are milk, egg, peanut, soy, fish, and gluten.5 The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was enacted to inform patients if a major allergen was in their food, even in trace amounts. This carries over to medications, however, this information comes and stays with the original bottle, it will not be transferred to the prescription label. These food and drug allergies are why the pharmacy will ask for your allergy information when creating your profile and before dispensing any medications. Different manufacturers use different excipients in their preparations, so you may be allergic to one brand and okay to take a different brand. If you would like to know if an allergen is in your prescription, ask your pharmacist.

Milk: Milk allergy, sometimes called lactose intolerance causes discomfort in the digestive tract whenever dairy products are consumed. There are other enzymes in milk that people may be allergic to such as casein. Lactose is used as a stabilizer in some asthma inhalers and as a filler (excipient) in some tablets. Other milk products can be found in TUMS smoothies, as well as some vaccines, so be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist to avoid an allergic reaction.5,6

Egg: Those with an egg allergy should be cautious of vaccines that use egg as a stabilizer and certain hospital drugs for intravenous use as some patients have had an anaphylactic reaction. The CDC has said that the Flu vaccine is safe, even in people with an egg allergy but there are egg-free versions of the vaccine available. IV Benadryl and the sedative propofol are two medications that contain egg. Again, make sure any health care professional that considers you a patient knows your allergy history as it is important for your safety.5,6

Peanut: Peanut is a well-recognized allergy alert and as such is not found in many medications. The package inserts for progesterone capsules and valproic acid capsules have peanut as an ingredient. Dimercaprol lists peanut oil and there is peanut oil in some asthma inhalers and the topical medication fluocinolone.6  There are alternatives to any of these medications for anyone with a peanut allergy that would also need one of these medicines.

Soy: Soy can be listed as soy or as one of its derivatives – lecithin. Again, it can be found in some inhalers and propofol5. Some over the counter products I’ve discovered that have soy are Advil liquid-gels, TUMS smoothies, and black cohosh (an herb sometimes used to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms). Be sure to read the ingredient list when choosing an over the counter medication or ask your pharmacist if you are unsure if an allergen is in a product.

Fish: Fish products can be found in some (not all) multi-vitamins and supplements, which highlights the importance of reading labels. A reversal agent for the anti-coagulant heparin called protamine contains some derived fish products. NPH insulin also contains some fish oil, so diabetic patients with a fish allergy needing a short acting insulin could choose a different insulin.3,5 There are case reports of patients with a fish allergy trying fish oil and not experiencing a reaction, if you would like to try the fish oil test then ask your doctor.

Dyes: One final excipient that causes a reaction in some patients is medical dye. Most specifically FD&C Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 4, and FD&C Yellow 5. These colors can be used in many different medications, your doctor or pharmacist would need to check to ensure these dyes aren’t in any of your medications7.

This is not a complete list of possible allergens or medications that may contain allergens. If you have ever experienced a reaction to a food, medicine, or dye be sure to inform your primary care doctor, pharmacist, and any specialists that you see. Document your reaction so that you can remember what happened if a health professional asks you about your allergy. Questions about possible allergens can be answered by your prescriber, pharmacist, poison control center, or manufacturer of your medication so never hesitate to call and ask. Any patient that has ever experienced an anaphylactic reaction should wear a bracelet advertising the allergy.

 

References

  1. Macy E, Ho NJ. Multiple drug intolerance syndrome: Prevalence, clinical characteristics, and management. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol2012; 108:88–93
  2. Stevenson, DD. Sanchez-Borges M. Szczeklik, A. Classification of allergic and pseudoallergic reactions to drugs that inhibit cyclooxygenase enzymes. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology 2001; 87:177
  3. Demoly P, Adkinson NR, Brockow K, et al. International Consensus on Drug Allergy. Allergy 69:420-437, 2014
  4. Lesney, Mark S. More than just the sugar in the pillToday’s Chemist at Work. 10(1): 30–6, 2001
  5. Kelso JM, Davis C. Food Allergy Management. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America 2018; 38:53-64
  6. Kelso JM. Potential food allergens in medications. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Jun 2013; 133(6):1509-18
  7. Swerlick RA, Campbell CF. Medication dyes as a source of drug allergy. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. Jan 2013; 12(1):99-102

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by Eli Kengerlinski, 2019 PharmD Candidate
University of Florida College of Pharmacy

Over the years, insulin prices have increased in accordance with newly developed insulins that have come to market. Traditional insulins, short and intermediate acting, as compared to newer rapid and long acting insulins, are less expensive in market value.1 Biosimilar traditional insulins with expired patents (some since 2000) may be a better option for some patients, as their market price has significantly dropped over the years. However, many patients are still having trouble affording their monthly Lantus or Humalog due to their high copays.

Why is insulin important?

Insulin plays an important role in managing patients with Diabetes Mellitus (DM). Patients with Type 1 DM have limited ability to produce endogenous insulin due to their pancreas’s inability to properly function. Patients with Type 2 DM can also have increased dependence on insulin therapy use as their disease state progresses. It is crucial for certain diabetic patient populations to have insulin at hand as they cannot control their sugar levels with just oral medications (eg. Metformin) that have no effect on insulin production. Type 1 DM population, there’s a greater need for basal (intermediate or long acting) as well as mealtime (rapid or short acting) insulin.

What options do you have?

Lifestyle modifications towards a healthier diet and exercise can be the most important changes any diabetic can make, and help ensure proper management of your condition. Monitoring your daily sugar levels, managing your weight via carb counting or following the plate method2, as well as exercising 30 minutes a day, five times a week, are all great habits to ensure effective DM management.

From January 2014 to July 2018, short and intermediate acting insulins have dropped in price equaling less than half of rapid and long acting insulins in the market today.1 Even if newer insulins offer better sugar control, their high prices make it difficult for patient access. For these specific patient populations, traditional insulins should be considered to ensure patient adherence to DM therapy and prevent patients using less of their insulin. If you’re having trouble paying for your insulin, then ask your provider if short and intermediate acting insulins would be right for you. Also contact your insurance company to see if you qualify for additional programs (eg. Medicare, Medicaid).

Furthermore, ask your provider if there are generic alternatives to your rapid or long acting insulin. For example, Admelog costs 12 to 15% less than Humalog while Basaglar costs about 15% less than Lantus on a per insulin unit basis.3 Therefore, it is important to ask for biosimilar generics that have the same active ingredient as they are usually cheaper.

Another affordable alternative to ensure access to insulin would be switching patients on high cost insulin pens to vials. Even though pens are more convenient and patient friendly, vials should be considered, especially if you’re having trouble affording your insulin. However, do ensure that you are instructed on how to properly inject your insulin.

If you’re still having trouble affording your insulin, ask your local pharmacist for a manufacturer savings card. If you need help with diabetic medications, visit www.wellrx.com for substantial prescription savings at pharmacies throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

REFERENCES:

  1. Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health & Science University. Premixed Insulin Analogues: A Comparison With Other Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes. 2009 Mar 25. In: Comparative Effectiveness Review Summary Guides for Clinicians [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2007-. [Table], Price of Insulin. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45287/table/clininsulin.tu1/
  2. Lara Hamilton. “How to Create Your Plate.” Diabetes Forecast, Nov. 2015, diabetesforecast.org/2015/adm/diabetes-plate-method/how-to-create-your-plate.html
  3. “Sanofi Launches Follow-On Insulin Lispro, Admelog.” The Center for Biosimilars Staff, 9 Apr. 2018, www.centerforbiosimilars.com/news/sanofi-launches-followon-insulin-lispro-admelog.

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morning sickness - scriptsave wellrx blog image

By Pawel F. Kojs, PharmD Candidate Class of 2019,
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

Morning sickness or nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) occurs in 70-80% of pregnant women.  In the United States, roughly 4 million women are affected each year.  This is more common in women that live in Western countries.1 A small percentage of women are affected each year with the more extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).1

To help with this condition, there are many remedies to consider with your provider.

How can diet help with morning sickness?

With respect to diet, it is best to avoid large meals and eat smaller meals more often throughout the day.  Eating more protein and less fat is advised as well.2

Even though it’s difficult, eating foods that do not have a high flavor profile and ones that are low in fat helps reduce the time it takes for food to leave the stomach.  This in turn helps with reducing the amount of symptoms one would have with morning sickness.2

Which options can help me with morning Sickness?

There are different options to help treat morning sickness. Avoid smells, foods, tastes, and smells that trigger that nauseous feeling. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any new prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and nutritional/herbal supplements.

Prescription Options

Disclaimer: Always consult with your provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

OTC Options

These options for pregnancy related nausea and vomiting are commonly used. The types of medications are available at your neighborhood pharmacy, but it is recommended to monitor for drowsiness or sedation.

Disclaimer: Always consult with your provider before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Prenatal Supplements

It is advisable to talk to a doctor regarding getting a proper prenatal supplementation. You and your provider can discuss how much folic acid you should take. US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Women’s Health (DHHS) recommends taking at least 400 – 800 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting at least three months before conception.3 Prenatal supplements should be taken on an empty stomach. If you experience stomach upset, try taking it before bed with a light snack.

References:


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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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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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Your child's medication during school hours - ScriptSave WellRx blog image

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 Sterling Harpst
2019 PharmD Candidate

Testing Your DNA May Actually Help Make Your Medicines Work Better

Many patients have heard of the personal genetic testing kits available for purchase from websites such as 23AndMe or AncestryDNA. There are currently over 250 Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) companies providing services to analyze saliva samples and create customized reports on what your genetic information says about you.1 Advertising for these companies often include claims that DNA testing can be used to determine an individual’s ancestry, risk for getting certain diseases, or even athletic ability.

What is of interest for many patients, however, is the claim that genetic information can be used to make their medicine more effective. With all of the information being presented, it can be easy for patients to become overwhelmed and unsure of how to make sense of it all. Here’s what consumers should know about the evolving field of Pharmacogenomics.

What are genes?

Inside your body there are millions of cells carrying chromosomes. Chromosomes makes up what is referred to as your “genetic blueprint.”  These are passed on to you from your parents and are made of unique information (genes) which code for specific traits. It is thought that there are nearly 30,000 genes in the human body which determine things like eye color, skin tone, height, and even the likelihood you may get a certain disease.2

What is Pharmacogenomics?

Pharmacogenomics is a relatively new field that looks at how a person’s unique genetic material affects their response to drugs. Imagine that three people get the same disease. Conventional medicine would often recommend they be prescribed the exact same medication. This may make one patient well again very quickly but have no impact on the other two. Essentially, pharmacogenomics aims to explain why changes in genetic information cause some drugs to work differently in different people. This new and exciting field hopes to make personalized medicine a reality, resulting in better diagnoses, earlier treatment decisions, more effective medication use, and customized therapy. By combining an understanding of drugs and genes, there is hope that one day all medicine can be personalized based on a patient’s DNA.

The Limitations of Genetic Tests

Although companies make a number of claims about what information their tests can provide, there are a few limitations to consider before completing any genetic test.

Interpretation

Perhaps the biggest limitation to pharmacogenomics is our ability to fully interpret what genetic information means. Modern technology allows us to analyze tens of thousands of genes, however truly understanding that information is another challenge entirely. Imagine a dictionary full of words, except only a few pages have a definition listed for each word. This dictionary could be used to describe where pharmacogenomics currently stands. Although we have advanced tremendously in recent years, we are still far from fully understanding of the meaning of every gene.

Ability to Make Changes

While there are certain therapies that require genetic testing before use, most do not. Many of the DTC genetic tests are designed to report only information related to drug metabolism. For example, if you do not make specific chemicals necessary to break down a drug, the drug may stay in your system longer and result in side effects. If you make those same chemicals in very high amounts, that drug may not reach the intended effect because your body removes it too quickly. For the purpose of making medication changes, this is often the only result tests can provide.

Minimal Regulation

Although there are many tests available today, there is little regulation when it comes to making sure companies are producing accurate results. Claims that you will know your chances for developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s are based on likelihood, not certainty. Many companies advertise tests that can be used to customize your diet and lifestyle as well. Without well documented clinical studies to provide evidence of these statements, the Centers for Disease Control and Intervention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are often hesitant to agree.3

For some of the newer or less well-known companies, there are significant concerns with the privacy of your genetic information. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law in 2008, preventing health insurances and employers from discriminating based on genetic information.4 However, with patient permission it is still legal to sell this data, making it very important to read the privacy policies on how they will use your information before taking a test.

If You’re Considering a DTC Genetic Test

It is important to know that the FDA and CDC do not approve genetic testing in place of traditional health care evaluation. The results may provide a likelihood regarding your chance to benefit from certain medications, but the tests are not final. Often the results may not be significant enough to change anything about your medicine. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Talk with your doctor first before completing any genetic test. It is important to know what they would recommend based on your specific circumstance.
  • Ask your doctor if they would be able to interpret the test with you. Some reports can be complicated and very difficult for patients to understand. Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals that are specifically trained to help interpret the meaning of genetic testing results.
  • Before making any changes to medications or lifestyle, ask the opinion of your doctor. Since test results can be challenging to understand, changes could result in dangerous consequences if made incorrectly.
  • Understand your rights regarding privacy. Before sending your DNA to anyone, it is best to know what your information will be used for. Your genetic information is personal, and you may not want companies to share that information for personal gain.

References

  1. Phillips, Andelka M. “Only a Click Away – DTC Genetics for Ancestry, Health, Love and More: A View of the Business and Regulatory Landscape.” Applied & Translational Genomics, vol. 8, 2016, pp. 16–22., doi:10.1016/j.atg.2016.01.001.
  2. “Human Genome Project Completion: Frequently Asked Questions.” National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), 30 Oct. 2010, genome.gov/11006943/human-genome-project-completion-frequently-asked-questions/.
  3. “Regulation of Genetic Tests.” National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), 17 Jan. 2018, genome.gov/10002335/.
  4. Su P. Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing: A Comprehensive View. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2013;86(3):359-365.

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Prescription options for allergy meds - scriptsave wellrx

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

Seasonal allergies affect anywhere between 10-30% of people worldwide.1 Allergies to one or more common allergens are reaching upwards of 40-50% in school children.1 Allergies occur due to an immune response to something the body considers “foreign,” in other words, strange or unfamiliar. When in contact with the “allergen,” the body produces antibodies which release a chemical called histamine. Histamine and some other chemicals are what cause allergic reactions.1,3

Symptoms of a seasonal allergic response include but are not limited to:3

  • Sneezing and a runny nose
  • Itchy nose and throat
  • Itchy, watery eyes

Symptoms of a more severe allergic response include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash
  • Welts
  • Swelling of mucous membranes

What to Do

When seasonal allergic symptoms occur, you should talk to your primary healthcare provider for help. While your physician can prescribe medications to minimize these symptoms, it is rare that they would be covered by your insurance. This is because most of the medications used for allergies are “over-the-counter” (OTC) medications. This means these medications can be purchased without a prescription, and can be easily found at your local drug store. If you are expecting a medication to be covered by your insurance, but find that it is not, there are options for you. Despite these medications being OTC, they can still be rather expensive, and if you need the medication consistently, the cost can add up. So, what are your options when it comes to these medications if your insurance won’t cover them?

There are many resources available to help you find the best price for OTC medications. The ScriptSave® WellRx app is free and can help you find the best price based on your location. If your physician writes a prescription for an OTC medication, you can use the ScriptSave WellRx app or discount card to get savings on that drug. You can visit www.WellRx.com to download a free card and find the cheapest cash price at a nearby pharmacy.

Lastly, your local pharmacist is a great resource when it comes to cost savings. They are a wealth of knowledge as it pertains to medication information and cost, and if they do not know the answer, they will know where and how to find the answer.

Allergy Medication Options

So now that you have the resources to find the best price, how can you decide which medication to choose? There are so many different types of medications for seasonal allergies, it is hard to know which is the best for you.

Antihistamines are the most common type of medication used for seasonal allergies.1 These are divided into two types, which are the first and second-generation antihistamines. The first-generation antihistamines are more likely to cause drowsiness and sedation compared to the second generation.2 The OTC first-generation antihistamines include:

The OTC second-generation antihistamines include

Second-generation antihistamines are not only less sedating, but also last longer, and are most often only needed once a day, whereas first-generation anti-histamines may need to be taken multiple times a day. All of these examples can be found as tablets, capsules, or suspensions.2

Some common side effects to look out for are:2

  • Dizziness/drowsiness (more common in first-generation)
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion

Another type of medication that can be used for seasonal allergies is nasal decongestants.1 These medications help to shrink the blood vessels in your nose to reduce the amount of leaking from your nose. These medications result in rapid relief of nasal congestion; however, they are only recommended for 3-5 days of use. Using these medications any longer than the recommendation can cause “rebound congestion,” basically making your symptoms worse. There are several different forms of these medications including topical, oral tablets and nasal sprays.4

Some of the side effects of these medications include:4

  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • irritability
  • nasal dryness
  • high blood pressure
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • urinary retention
  • dizziness

Keep in mind that there are daily and monthly limits to the amount of Sudafed you can purchase based on state laws. Although these medications can act rapidly and help with symptoms right away, they should not be used for more than 5 days at a time.4

One last common type of OTC medication used for seasonal allergies is nasal corticosteroids1. These medications act to slow down the body’s immune response to the allergen, reducing the amount of inflammation. Although there are corticosteroids that work for the whole body, these are nasal sprays that are directed to the nose to help with symptoms that occur locally or in the general area, therefore, there are very few of the normal side effects of steroids because the medication is specifically targeted to the nose. Most of the side effects that can happen are in the nose/throat area, although they are not very common.4

The current nasal corticosteroids include:

The side effects of these medications can include:4

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Nose bleeds
  • Congestion
  • Throat swelling/irritation
  • Upper respiratory infection.

There are many options for treating your allergies with over the counter medications, including medications that are not antihistamines. If your doctor prescribes a medication and it is not covered by insurance, talk to your pharmacist about OTC alternatives and use the resources available to you to find the best price. That way you can treat your symptoms, feel better, and keep more money in your pocket.

 

References

  1. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2018). AAAA. Retrieved from http://www.aaaai.org/. Accessed on 5/16/2018.
  2. Carson S, Lee N, Thakurta S. Drug Class Review: Newer Antihistamines: Final Report Update 2 [Internet]. Portland (OR): Oregon Health & Science University; 2010 May. Introduction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK50554/
  3. Jeffrey L. Kishiyama, M. (2014). Pathophysiology of Disease: An Introduction to Clinical Medicine, 7e. Gary D. Hammer, MD, PhD, Stephen J. McPhee, MD.
  4. Platt, Michael. International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology. Sep2014 Supplement, Vol. 4, pS35-S40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25182353

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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Walmart Announces New Opioid Rules - pill image WellRx

On May 7, 2018, Walmart issued a press release to announce the pending introduction (within 60 days) of new restrictions on how it will fill prescriptions for opioid medications. These new initiatives will apply to all Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies and pharmacists in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Walmart indicated that these changes are “an effort to continue to be part of the solution to our nation’s opioid epidemic,” and it reflects a further expansion of the company’s Opioid Stewardship Initiative. The move from Walmart follows a similar initiative by CVS that went into effect in February. Increasingly, retail pharmacies are stepping up efforts to stem the spread of opioid addiction, prevent overdoses and curb over-prescribing by doctors.

What Doctors Need to know, and What it Means for Patients with Legitimate Prescriptions

Walmart is the fourth-largest pharmacy chain in the US and these changes (being introduced over the course of a 60-day period) are likely to touch a number of patients. The retailer will move to restrict initial acute opioid prescriptions to no more than a seven-day supply, while also limiting a day’s total dose to no more than the equivalent of 50 morphine milligrams. Meanwhile, in states where the law for fills on new acute opioid prescriptions is less than seven days, Walmart and Sam’s Club will follow state law.

In addition to these immediate-term changes, by January 1, 2020, Walmart and Sam’s Club will require e-prescriptions for controlled substances.

In terms of patients needing acute or short-time pain management, in the event that the pain lasts longer than a seven-day supply (and still warrants treatment with these medications), the patient will have to consult his/her physician in order to obtain a new prescription.

Such restrictions have prompted concern that requiring patients to obtain a new prescription after seven, or sometimes only three days (depending on the state), can become too costly due to mandatory co-pays. Dr. Steven Stanos, former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine explained that the organization applauds “any action that seeks to limit the over-prescription of opioids,” but added, “That needs to be balanced with the very real need of patients.”

For this reason, doctors and patients should be engaging in dialog about current and alternative medications and possible savings options, as they formulate a strategy for effective pain management.


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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

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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Prevent shingles - ScriptSave WellRx image

by Alyssa Kasher
PharmD Candidate of 2018

It’s likely you’ve heard about shingles, or may even know someone who has had the painful rash, but what exactly is shingles, and how can you prevent it? The varicella-zoster virus (VSV) causes two distinct forms of infection, chickenpox and shingles. It’s important to recognize how you can contract this virus and what you can do to protect against it.

If You’ve Ever had Chickenpox, You Can Develop Shingles

A primary VSV infection occurs when you’re first exposed to the virus, referred to as varicella or chickenpox. Chickenpox is a highly contagious condition spread through direct person-to-person contact, sneezing, or coughing. Most people recognize it from the itchy blisters or “pox” that appear all over the body.  In healthy people, the condition is mild and resolves within 5-10 days1.  As chickenpox resolves, the varicella-zoster virus retreats into the nerve cells and goes into hiding. The virus’s ability to evade the immune system allows it to lay dormant until future reactivation1. Although anyone previously infected with chickenpox will carry VSV in their system, not everyone will experience the virus’s reactivation.

According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans will experience the reactivation of the VSV. When this occurs, it manifests as a secondary infection called herpes zoster or shingles1. The virus travels down a nerve and produces a patch of painful lesions on the skin that may permanently scar or discolor the skin.

Shingles is More Dangerous Than Chickenpox

As the infection moves down the nerve, it causes inflammation resulting in damage or cell death2. This causes the most painful and lasting effect of the infection, called peripheral neuropathy or nerve pain. Inflammation may also occur in the eyes and the brain causing serious and potentially fatal complications1. Shingles is more dangerous than chickenpox, especially because it usually occurs in older people who may have weaker immune systems with less ability to fight off the infection.

How Can You Prevent Shingles? Vaccination

The first vaccine to prevent the primary VSV infection, or chickenpox, was not developed until 1995. This means much of the older population has been exposed to chickenpox. Zostavax, the first vaccine to prevent the reactivation of the virus (shingles), did not come out until 20064.  Many people may have already received the Zostavax vaccine. However, a better vaccine has taken its place.

Shingrix: A Better Way to Prevent Shingles

In the fall of 2017, Zostavax was replaced by Shingrix as the CDC recommended vaccine to best prevent shingles and related complications. Shingrix, unlike Zostavax, is not a live vaccine and cannot cause shingles. Shingrix is given in two doses, and is over 90% effective at preventing shingles3. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 50 of receive Shingrix. You should get the Shingrix vaccine if you have already had shingles, previously received Zostavax or if you’re not sure you had chickenpox as a child. Studies show that 99% of Americans over 40 have been exposed to the chickenpox virus whether they realize it or not3.

Patient populations at the highest risk of shingles include:

  • those over 50
  • immunocompromised patients
  • females
  • anyone with underlying chronic lung and kidney disease.

Facts About Shingrix3

  • After your first dose of Shingrix, you should receive the second dose within 2-6 months.
  • You can receive the vaccine at your community pharmacy without a prescription.
  • Shingrix is covered by Medicare Part D. Ask your pharmacist to see if your plan covers it.
  • Shingrix can cause injection site soreness and pain. Using ibuprofen or Tylenol can help.
  • Talk to your pharmacist or doctor to see if Shingrix is right for you.
  • Always discuss all conditions/medications with a doctor or pharmacist before getting a vaccine.

References

  1. Albrecht, MA. Clinical manifestations of the varicella-zoster virus infection: Herpes zoster. In: Basow DS, ed., UpToDate. Waltham (MA).: UpToDate; 2016.
  2. Albrecht, MA. Epidemiology and pathogenesis of varicella-zoster virus infection: Herpes zoster. In: Basow DS, ed., UpToDate. Waltham (MA).: UpToDate; 2016.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines & Preventable Diseases. Vaccines by Disease. Shingles. Retrieved at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/zostavax/index.html. Accessed 2018 Jan 22.
  4. Immunization Action Coalition. Chickenpox (Varicella): Questions and Answers. Retrieved at: https://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4202.pdf. Accessed 2018 Jan 22.

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

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