what to tell the dentist about medicine you take - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

by Heather Lee, PharmD Candidate
University of Arizona

A Guide to Medication Warnings

When you visit the dentist, you expect to answer typical questions regarding your oral health, such as how often you are brushing your teeth or the infamous question of whether or not you floss. It may surprise you when your dentist asks what medications you take at home. Why would it matter if the dentists knows what you’re taking? Many medications, which includes prescriptions, over-the-counter, and even herbal medications, can affect your oral health and it is important for the dentist to know what you take so they can determine the best course of action for your oral health.

Blood Thinners

Many patients are currently on blood thinners or antiplatelet therapy to prevent the risk of blood clots. Common examples of blood thinners include warfarin (Coumadin), dabigatran (Pradaxa), apixaban (Eliquis), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and edoxaban (Savaysa). Common examples of antiplatelet medications include clopidogrel (Plavix), ticlopidine (Ticlid), prasugrel (Effient), ticagrelor (Brilinta), and/or aspirin. Taking these medications is important to prevent blood clots, but they can also increase the risk of bleeding, especially during a dental procedure. The risk increases if you are taking multiple medications to prevent clots.  It is important for the dentist to know if you are taking these medicines so they can take extra precautions to prevent bleeding, such as stopping the medication temporarily or controlling the bleeding through local measures. They can control the bleeding through various methods, such as mechanical pressure, agents that stop the bleeding, or suturing. The dentist can make a more informed decision with what they want to do with the medication when they have a better knowledge of the type of medication you’re taking, your bleeding risk, and what procedure you’re going in for.1

Dry Mouth

Having a dry mouth can be caused by a variety of different factors, such as a medication’s side effect, having a certain medical condition, or personal habits (mouth breathing and alcohol/tobacco use).

Saliva plays an important role in maintaining your oral health through multiple ways by:

  • Reducing the population of bacteria in the mouth
  • Neutralizing acid caused by bacteria, which damages your teeth
  • Repairing tooth enamel that may have been damaged by acid
  • Washing food particles away2

A lack of saliva can cause dry, cracked lips, bad breath, infections in your mouth, and cavities. Medications that can cause this include medications used to control allergies, asthma, blood pressure, pain, and depression.

Your dentist can help by:

  • Recommending a special gel or rinse to keep your mouth moist
  • Prescribing or applying a fluoride containing toothpaste or mouthwash to prevent cavities3

Other ways to relieve this symptom can include:

  • Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free hard candies to increase the flow of saliva
  • Sucking on ice chips
  • Drinking water with meals to help with chewing and swallowing food
  • Using alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Avoiding carbonated drinks, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol
  • Using a lanolin-based lip balm to soothe dry lips3

Enlarged Gum Tissue

There are some medications that may increase your risk of getting enlarged gum tissue, which is also known as “gingival overgrowth”. This is usually associated with antiseizure medications (phenytoin), immunosuppressive drugs (cyclosporine), and calcium channel blockers (including nifedipine, verapamil, diltiazem, and amlodipine). If your dentist is aware you are taking these medications, they may encourage you to do professional cleaning more often throughout the year and educate you on how to improve your brushing technique.4

Jaw Pain

There have been some reports of individuals who had difficulty healing or jaw pain after going through invasive dental procedures or even a tooth extraction. This can be due to bone death caused by a lack of blood supply (osteonecrosis). The common factor in these individuals were that they were taking a medication from the bisphosphonate class. Bisphosphonates are usually used to prevent bone weakening or destruction and are commonly prescribed to treat osteoporosis. Examples include risedronate (Actonel), zoledronate (Zometa), alendronate (Fosamax), and ibandronate (Boniva).

Over 90% of cases were in patients receiving an IV form of the drug. The risk is thought to be less than 1% of patients receiving an IV form, but they were at least ten times more likely to be affected than those who took the oral form. If you are on this medication, your dentist can discuss ways to minimize the risk of needing invasive procedures, such as tooth extractions and surgery. They may consider more conservative treatments, such as a root canal procedure. They can provide preventative advice regarding whether you need professional cleaning more often, how to observe any changes in your mouth, and how to be more careful with taking care of your teeth and gums.5

The following may increase your risk of developing jaw pain:

  • Older age (greater than 65 years)
  • Treatment with chronic corticosteroids
  • Long-term use of bisphosphonates
  • Gum infection that damages the gum and can destroy the jawbone (periodontitis)6

Signs to watch out for:

  • Gum wounds that heal very slowly or do not heal for six weeks or more after a procedure
  • Exposed bone
  • ”Roughness” on gum tissue
  • Pain if the open wound becomes infected
    • Pus or swelling
    • Numbness, especially in the lower jaw, if the infection lasts long enough5

Current treatment options include:

  • Antiseptic rinses to help prevent the growth of bacteria
  • Antibiotics
  • Cleaning/removal of dead bone from the affected area
  • Possible referral to a specialist or a surgeon for further evaluation5

Updating Your Dentist Regarding Medications

These are just a few of the reasons of why it is important to inform your dentist regarding what medications, over-the-counters, and herbal supplements you take. Your dentist can take extra precaution when you come in and educate you as to the best way to maintain your oral health when they are aware of what medications may be affecting it. The next time you go in, bring an updated medication list so your dentist is on the same page as to what you are taking at home.

References:

  1. Anticoagulant and Antiplatelet Medications and Dental Procedures. https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/anticoagulant-antiplatelet-medications-and-dental-. Accessed October 31, 2018.
  2. Department of Health & Human Services. Teeth and drug use. Better Health Channel. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/teeth-and-drug-use. Published June 30, 2014. Accessed November 1, 2018.
  3. Managing dry mouth. The Journal of the American Dental Association , Volume 146 , Issue 2 , A40
  4. Staff SBI. Gingival Enlargement. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. http://www.aaom.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=132:gingival-enlargement&catid=22:patient-condition-information&Itemid=120. Accessed November 2, 2018.
  5. Staff SBI. Bisphosphonate Therapy. The American Academy of Oral Medicine. http://www.aaom.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78:bisphosphonate-. Accessed November 2, 2018.
  6. Dental management of patients receiving oral bisphosphonate therapy. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2006;137(8):1144-1150. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.2006.0355.

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avoiding hospital readmissions - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

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

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t work as well as it should to pump blood. Some conditions, like narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure, gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to pump efficiently. Most patients struggling with CHF usually present to the hospital with shortness of breath, the most frequent symptom in patients with deteriorating CHF.1 It is crucial to be able to identify if your CHF is worsening. Early management of CHF can prevent hospitalization and equip you with the proper knowledge to identify trigger factors, improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure, and help you live longer.

Presenting CHF Symptoms

Usually CHF patients present to the hospital with worsening symptoms of:

  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing while lying down
  • Weight gain (over 2 kg), usually due to leg or ankle swelling caused by fluid retention.

However, there are major medical conditions reported in literature that can occur simultaneously in a patient with CHF, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).1 Therefore, patients hospitalized with worsening CHF can be admitted for more than one reason such as pneumonia (respiratory infection due to COPD worsening), pulmonary edema (fluid built up in lungs due to CHF), or CHD event (heart attack or stroke).

Hospital Readmissions

Patients readmitted following COPD exacerbation have 10-20% readmission rate within 30 days post hospital discharge, especially during May to November compared to January indicating seasonal admissions.4 Accordingly, it is crucial to use your inhalers, as prescribed with proper technique throughout the year, and inform your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse during seasonal changes. Also, management of other conditions like CHF, high blood pressure and cholesterol, can help reduce COPD readmission rates, as one condition can worsen another if not properly managed.

How to Tell if  Your Condition is Worsening

Congestive Heart Failure Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Shortness of breath when active or at rest Shortness of breath, especially when active or during exercise
Shortness of breath when lying down or at night Chronic cough (dry or productive) with clear white, yellow, or greenish mucus
Wheezing & coughing Wheezing
Rapid or irregular heartbeat Chest congestion, tightness, discomfort
Swelling in your ankles & feet Unintended weight loss
Frequent urination especially at night Increased usage of short acting inhalers
Weight gain of 2-3 lbs/day or 5 lbs/week Frequent respiratory infections
Feeling fatigued or weak Feeling fatigued or weak

Preventing Emergency Room Visits and Hospitalizations

While you may not be able to prevent every return trip to the emergency room or hospital, there are some steps you can take to help minimize the possibility:

  • Patient Centered care: Effective communication and rapport between healthcare professionals and patients are crucial in preventing hospitalizations. Patients can have precipitating factors due to their other health conditions therefore reporting on signs and symptoms of worsening conditions are important as it would enable the health care provider to practice preventive medicine and construct appropriate treatment strategy after an effective patient assessment.
  • Medication Adherence: Being adherent to your medication therapy will prevent disease progression, hospitalizations, as well as additional health care costs.2 There are multiple tools and resources to help patients overcome barriers such as access to medicine, forgetfulness, improper administration technique, perceived side effects, cost, as well as understanding of their disease state and how to appropriately manage their condition. If you have any issues with adherence, make sure to inform your provider as effective communication will provide you optimal treatment.
  • Vaccines: COPD admissions are seasonal as studies show strong association with the flu season, however every patient is unique and can have worsened symptoms during seasonal changes, therefore it is highly recommended to get your flu and pneumonia vaccines to decrease chances of readmission.
  • Diet & Lifestyle Modifications:
    • CHF: Limit your salt and fluid intake, as increase in salt intake can pull water into your body and cause you to swell up. Therefore, it is crucial to weigh yourself every morning to ensure you do not gain more than 2-3 pounds in a day or 5 pounds in a week. If your medication or limited salt intake is not helping you control your fluids, seek your provider immediately as this is a sign for deteriorating CHF.
    • COPD: Current smokers should seek smoking cessation as it is the most effective in minimizing symptoms and risk for respiratory infections. Furthermore, COPD patients should avoid dust as well as indoor and outdoor air pollutants. Make sure to follow up with primary care provider within 7 days after discharge for lab tests and assessment to ensure
    • CHD: Controlling your blood pressure as well as your cholesterol will reduce the risk for heart attacks as well as stroke. For patients at a higher risk for heart attacks should have NTG sublingual tablets at hand and report to their provider if they start to experience chest pains more than usual as this can indicate a risk for another heart attack. Obesity is also associated with worsened cholesterol and high blood pressure therefore managing your weight as well as your disease states can put you at a lower risk for heart attacks and stroke.

If you’re having trouble managing your disease states, talk to your doctor for a referral to a dietician and/or lifestyle coach who can aid in minimizing your risk for readmissions.

 

References:

  1. Shafazand, Masoud et al. “Patients with Worsening Chronic Heart Failure Who Present to a Hospital Emergency Department Require Hospital Care.” BMC Research Notes5 (2012): 132. PMC. Web. 12 Oct. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315737/
  2. Jimmy, Beena, and Jimmy Jose. “Patient Medication Adherence: Measures in Daily Practice.” Oman Medical Journal3 (2011): 155–159. PMC. Web. 12 Oct. 2018.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191684/
  3. Ziaeian, Boback, and Gregg C. Fonarow. “The Prevention of Hospital Readmissions in Heart Failure.” Progress in cardiovascular diseases4 (2016): 379–385. PMC. Web. 12 Oct. 2018.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4783289/
  4. Simmering JE, Polgreen LA, Comellas AP, Cavanaugh JE, Polgreen PM. Identifying patients with COPD at high risk of readmission. Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis. 2016; 3(4): 729-738. doi: http://doi.org/10.15326/jcopdf.3.4.2016.0136

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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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

If you’re struggling to afford your prescription medications,
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blockchain technology and healthcare - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Sterling Harpst, 2019 PharmD Candidate

There are many news stories about the digital currency Bitcoin, and some have heard of the technology behind it: blockchain. However, most people are probably unaware of the impact this technology could have on our society, especially within the field of healthcare. Demand for blockchain, is exploding, so let’s look at its potential applications to consider from a patient perspective.

What is Blockchain Technology?

The blockchain is a permanent and public database that shows all transactions that have ever taken place on it.

Think of it as a single spreadsheet that can be simultaneously accessed and edited by a network of computers all around the world. Each time a participant on the network enters a new transaction, the change is reflected on all spreadsheets in real time. What makes this unique is its decentralized nature. In contrast to traditional networks in which the spreadsheet is owned by a single company (i.e. a bank), the blockchain stores the original information in millions of locations at the same time, with no single owner. This ensures all information stored on the blockchain is public and verifiable. It also greatly increases the protection of data, preventing hackers from corrupting a central location that houses every file on the network.1

When a digital transaction or “block” is initiated, it can only be finalized on the spreadsheet if there is public consensus among other participants on the network. This consensus requires multiple decisions regarding whether the information being transferred from one party to another is accurate and decisions are then compared to one another. Once a threshold consensus has been reached, the data is time-stamped and permanently linked to the previous transaction, forming a chain of information that is impossible to alter.2 The blockchain “spreadsheet” can only be distributed to other participants in the network, rather than copied, which eliminates the possibility of altering data and allows for an unbiased and trustworthy source of transaction information. Therefore, this type of network eliminates the need for a middleman to perform these services.

Although this new type of system can be difficult to comprehend, it has the potential to change nearly every aspect of business. In the same way that e-mails can be sent without fully understanding the underlying technology, the blockchain can be used by anyone. This still begs the question for patients – how will it affect me?

How the Blockchain Will Impact Healthcare

Electronic Health Record (EHR)

One of the most significant problems with the healthcare system today is the lack of information sharing. As a patient, many individuals find it hard to understand why one doctor can access their entire medical history, while another has only incomplete notes regarding once yearly office visits. The middleman, in this instance, is the electronic health record company. These entities protect the information that is stored on their software to incentivize other businesses to adopt or pay for the ability to communicate with their program. This can leave patients with partial, mismatching records that hinder the doctor’s ability to provide the best care. Many companies, however, are now proposing the use of a blockchain to solve this problem.

As described earlier, the blockchain allows for a digital “spreadsheet” to be shared across computers with access to the same network. The spreadsheet in this instance, would represent the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). This blockchain network would be personally controlled by the patient, who could then grant access to doctors or other healthcare professionals as necessary. Patients would even have the ability to grant access to only certain parts of the health record, leaving out personal information that doesn’t pertain to the specialist they may be seeing. Once an appointment has concluded, the patient can then subsequently revoke privileges to see the information, if they so choose. Examples of companies pursuing this type of blockchain solution for EHR include Iryo, Patientory, Guardtime, Coral Health, Medicalchain, and more.3

Pharmacogenomics

In the new and growing fields of pharmacogenomics and genetic testing, current industry business models have prompted some to seek another use for the blockchain. 23andMe and AncestryDNA are a few of the most well-known genetic testing companies in the direct-to-consumer market today. By selling patients an opportunity to receive a genetic test through the mail, the need for prescriptions or consultation by a healthcare professional has become something of the past. What few patients know is, a significant portion of their revenue comes from selling the genetic information to pharmaceutical manufacturing companies for the purpose of conducting research. Pharma companies pay billions of dollars each year to obtain this information and use it to direct their future drug development efforts. Unfortunately, patients do not see any kickback revenue as a result.

This practice has prompted companies such as EncrypGen, Nebula Genomics and others to offer a unique answer to this problem. In their models, the “spreadsheet” would be the results of a genetic test. In the same way mentioned prior, patients could both allow and revoke access privileges for Pharma companies to this information. Instead of Pharma companies acting as doctors to use the test results to make clinical decisions, they would instead pay the patients directly for their data.3 This would incentivize patients to not only further research efforts but receive payment at the same time.

The Future of Blockchain in Healthcare

A new generation of healthcare technology companies have launched efforts to create an information structure that performs each of these functions and many more using the blockchain. From prevention of drug counterfeiting to managing data loss in natural disasters, startups are appearing across the country to fix problems that have plagued the healthcare system for decades. Many think this technology is coming to our businesses and personal lives very soon, while others believe it is far from being fully integrated. Either way, with the potential to revolutionize several different areas in healthcare and beyond, the blockchain is a technology worth paying attention to.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. Elliott C, Rosic A, Lind, et al. What is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners. Blockgeeks. https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/. Published June 22, 2018. Accessed June 25, 2018.
  2. Mearian L. What is blockchain? The most disruptive tech in decades. Computerworld. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3191077/security/what-is-blockchain-the-most-disruptive-tech-in-decades.html. Published May 31, 2018. Accessed June 25, 2018.
  3. Top 12 Companies Bringing Blockchain To Healthcare. The Medical Futurist. http://medicalfuturist.com/top-12-companies-bringing-blockchain-to-healthcare/. Published April 4, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2018.

Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.

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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why children need to play - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Pattiya Wattananimitgul

When you think of a child’s development, you might think of good education, nutritious food, and a caring family. Play is likely not on the top of your list if it’s on your list at all, but it should be. In this post, playing means active activities that would engage children’s bodies and minds in imaginative and creative ways and not passive activities, like sitting in front of the screen playing computer or video games. Some examples of healthy, active activities are pretend plays, hide-and-seek, and board games. In this day and age, fast-paced lifestyle, family structure changes, and increased focus on academics are contributing to less free time for children to play.1 Some parents might think playing is useless or a waste of time. However, scientific studies show that play is crucial in children’s development.2 Here are some reasons why children need to play:

Strengthen “cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being of children”

Play is crucial to the development of the brain because it lets children use their creativity and imagination. By playing, they are able to make decisions, solve problems, and think for themselves. It allows them to explore the world around them, overcome their fears, and develop skills to deal with future challenges.1  Play also helps release stress, which help fortify children’s emotional well-being and reduce the risk of developing behavioral health problems.2 All these combined also lead to better academic outcomes.

Improve teamwork and social skills

Play allows children to work in groups, share, negotiate, boost confidence, solve problems, and learn how to respond to people’s feelings.1 It helps them develop social interaction skills and get along better with others.

Reduce obesity

Research shows that there is a link between decline in active outdoor play and increase in childhood obesity.2 About 18.5% of children and adolescents in the United States are obese, which increased more than three times the percentage from the 1970s when plays was more common.3,4  Obesity leads to complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes. According to Alliance for Children, doctors are warning that children today may be the first generation in two centuries to have a shorter duration of life than their parents. Active play increase children’s physical activities and therefore decrease childhood obesity epidemic.2

Discover their interests

Play allows children to explore in many different areas and discover interests without giving them any unrealistic expectations or pressure to be outstanding in each area. This would ultimately lead them to find their own passions they would like to pursue in the future.1

Open up opportunities for parents to engage with their children

Play would help build stronger bond with your children and better relationship with them. This would also give you opportunities to learn how to communicate with your children more effectively and give them nurturing guidance.1

By letting your children play and letting them be kids, it would strongly benefit them in the long run and help them become happy, healthy, and successful adults. Lastly, your pharmacist is a great resource to any questions you might have or to learn more about your children’s health and well-being.

 

References

  1. Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2697
  2. Miller, E., & Almon, J. (2009). Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood.
  3. Childhood Obesity Facts. (2018, June 13). Retrieved August 10, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html
  4. Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1963–1965 Through 2011–2012. (2014, September 19). Retrieved August 10, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_child_11_12/obesity_child_11_12.htm

Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.
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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does sunscreen cause cancer - scriptsave wellrx blog image

by Pattiya Wattananimitgul

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

Oxybenzone

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

Retinyl Palmitate

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

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide

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

Protect Yourself from UV Rays

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

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

active ingredients in sunscreen - scriptsave wellrx blog image

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

Resources

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

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

Falls Happen More Often Than You Think

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

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

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

Are You at Risk for a Fall?

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

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

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

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

Some Medications Can Increase the Risk of a Fall

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

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

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

  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

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

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

 

References:

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

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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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by Robert “Jed” Swackhammer, Ohio State University

Many patients think that only pharmacists work at pharmacies. However, there is much more that goes on behind the pharmacy counter. In fact, most pharmacies include a team of trainee technicians, registered technicians, certified technicians, student pharmacists, and pharmacists. A common question is, what are the differences between technicians and why they are important? This answer is an essential reason why pharmacies can run safely, effectively and efficiently.

More Than Just a Cashier

A pharmacy’s foundation starts with the development of its technicians. To initiate the process, an individual must have, at minimum, a high school diploma or equivalent to become a technician. But we should also consider the required skills. In Florida, for example, The Rasmussen Pharmacy Technician College states that skills required of technicians and are “frequently defined as clerical, customer service, critical thinking and basic medical knowledge.”[1]

Preceding the application process, an individual must first complete pharmacy training, and is titled as a technician in training or a trainee technician. So to be considered a registered technician, most states require trainee technicians to register with their state board of pharmacy.[2] However, it’s always important to check your states requirements, as they may change. Lastly, to become a certified pharmacy technician, one must take and pass the national certification exam provided by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). After passing the exam, a pharmacy technician is entitled to apply to any available pharmacy technician position within the nation.

Providing Optimal Care

Knowing what it takes to become a pharmacy technician, it is also reasonable to recognize their value to the pharmacy team. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the need for pharmacy technicians will continue—specifically an increase in 12% from 2016-2026, due to the number of pharmacy schools and graduating pharmacists. As a result, it is vital that we meet this balance, so that pharmacists within pharmacies can continue to provide optimal patient care. Especially, by utilizing pharmacy technicians, as they always help to relieve pharmacists of certain tasks and responsibilities.[3]

Recognizing Value

For this reason, it is vital that current and future pharmacists recognize the value of their pharmacy technicians. Moreover, it is important that pharmacists challenge technicians and their knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) to keep them engaged and up-to-date.[4]

For example, in 2017, the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association published a summary article of the Pharmacy Technician Stakeholder Consensus Conference. This article stated that more than “44,000 pharmacy technicians answered 1 of 2 surveys related to job analysis, which assessed how frequent specific tasks were being performed. Additionally, the PTCB stated that they will continue to analyze job analyses to help develop better pre-certification requirements and future certification programs in advanced community pharmacy and sterile compounding.”[4]

It is vital that student pharmacists and pharmacists recognize their technicians to drive the profession forward and continue to deliver optimal patient care.

 

References

[1] Koehler, T.C., Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2018.06.017

[2] Pharmacy Technician License Requirements by State. Pharmacy Times. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/technician-news/pharmacy-technician-license-requirements-by-state#wa. Published 2015. Accessed August 6th 2018.

[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm. Accessed August 6th 2018.

[4] Zellmer W, McAllister E, Silvester J, Vlasses P. Toward uniform standards for pharmacy technicians: Summary of the 2017 Pharmacy Technician Stakeholder Consensus Conference. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 2017;57(5):e1-e14. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2017.06.014


Download the free WellRx app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store,
and get registered to take advantage of our free medication adherence tools.

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by Roxanna Orsini

It’s a fact. Medications don’t work if patients don’t take them. Taking your medications as prescribed by your physician can help improve the quality and length of your life.

Importance of taking your medications

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 50% of Americans have used at least one prescription with in the last 30 days. One recent study shows that patients who were compliant with taking their statin therapy medications for at least two years had a 30% reduction in the risk of hospitalization for acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).1

Even with all the benefits medications can have on a patient’s health, there is still an issue with adherence to medication therapy.

After a patient visits their doctor

  • 20% – 30% of new prescriptions never reach the pharmacy.2
  • Of those prescriptions that do get filled, 50% of the time they are not taken as prescribed by the doctor.2
  • After six months of treatment for a chronic condition, patients tend to reduce the amount of medication they are taking, or stop treatment altogether.

Annual results of medication nonadherence

  • 125,000 deaths and at least 10% of hospitalizations.2
  • Costs the United States health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion annually.2,3

Most common reasons medication treatments are adjusted

Patients often discontinue or alter how they are taking their medications due to a variety of factors. A patient may no longer be adherent to their prescription therapy due to:

  • Cost of the medication
  • Experiencing a potential side effect
  • The patient no longer felt they needed the medication, and,
  • The patient feeling they are currently taking too many medications.

If a medication is too costly, ask your provider if they have any samples to provide, or even ask about possible generic alternatives. Prescription discount services, like ScriptSave WellRx, can often help reduce the cost. You may be surprised to find our cash prices is even lower than your insurance copay! Visit our website to check your medication prices.

When you’re considering an adjustment to your medication therapy, it’s important to follow up and discuss the decision with your healthcare provider. Some medications, if discontinued suddenly, can cause more harm than good.

Ways to improve the way you take your medications

Complications from medication nonadherence are 100% preventable. Here are a few tips to help you remember to take your medications:

  • Using an alarm or calendar
  • Filling a weekly pillbox
  • Taking the medication at the same time every day, create a routine
  • Ask your pharmacy about getting a 90-day supply
  • Ask your insurance provider if mail order provides prescription benefits.

Make sure to keep open communication with your healthcare provider. There are times a patient does not report a side effect or concern with the medication until the next appointment. Try reaching out to your provider right away. They are there to help you find a medication that can help improve your health condition.

References:

  1. Lansberg, P., Lee, A., Lee, Z., Subramaniam, K. and Setia, S. (2018). Nonadherence to statins: individualized intervention strategies outside the pill box. Vascular Health and Risk Management, Volume 14, pp.91-102.
  2. Rosenbaum, L. and Shrank, W. (2013). Taking Our Medicine — Improving Adherence in the Accountability Era. New England Journal of Medicine, 369(8), pp.694-695.
  3. Viswanathan, M., Golin, C., Jones, C., Ashok, M., Blalock, S., Wines, R., Coker-Schwimmer, E., Rosen, D., Sista, P. and Lohr, K. (2012). Interventions to Improve Adherence to Self-administered Medications for Chronic Diseases in the United States. Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(11), p.785-95.

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
visit www.WellRx.com to compare the cash discount price at pharmacies near you.
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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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by Benjamin Liang
PharmD Candidate Class of 2019, University of Arizona

Changes in Health Information Technology (HIT)

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

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

What are healthcare providers are doing?

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

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

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

How can I stay safe?

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

What can you do to help your healthcare providers?

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

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

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

References

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

If you’re struggling to afford your medications,
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You may find prices lower than your insurance co-pay!

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