searching online for health information - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

When it comes to health information on the internet, many patients are no longer sure what to believe. Just as important, patients often don’t know how to apply what they have read. Healthcare providers have the opportunity to help patients navigate through the vast variety of online health information.

Take the Practice Trends Today quiz (here) from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) to learn more about helping patients understand the results of their online healthcare searches.

Click Here to take the quiz.


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Do ARBs cause cancer - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

by Mitchell Welton, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona

As with all cause and effect scenarios it is always best to cover the basics. Before we ask if ARBs cause cancer let’s discuss what an ARB actually is. An ARB is a family of medications taken by mouth to lower blood pressure. The acronym stands for angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) and its name implies its function. This medication blocks angiotensin II from binding to its respective receptor. When angiotensin II binds to its receptor it causes the blood vessel to contract which increases the blood pressure.1 A patient taking an ARB would have less binding of the receptor and thus no contraction of the blood vessels causing lower blood pressure. Aside from its intended purpose, do ARBs also cause cancer?

Evaluation of Cancer Risk

In 2016 an analysis was done to evaluate the incidence of cancer in patients treated with ARBs for high blood pressure. The review concluded that ARBs had no effect in the incidence of cancer which was consistent with the findings of a similar study conducted in 2011.2 In other words, to say that ARBs as a drug class cause cancer would not be correct. However, in June of 2018 Valsartan, a commonly prescribed ARB, was recalled by the manufacturer citing an impurity found in the medication. The impurity, N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), is a probable cancer-causing agent.

Since then the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation into the affected Valsartan products. That investigation found a second impurity known as N-Nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) also a probable human carcinogen. Further investigation and testing on other ARBs revealed that some irbesartan and losartan products contained NDEA as well. All affected products have been recalled. Not all ARBs are affected by this recall, however a list of all affected products can be found on the FDA website. It is also important to note that the drugs candesartan, eprosartan, olmesartan, and telmisartan belong to the ARB drug class and have not been identified as containing either of the previously mentioned impurities.3

The Impact of Impurities

The effect that these impurities have on cancer rates is difficult to assign a number to. Professionals at the FDA estimate that there would be one additional case of cancer out of 8,000 people taking valsartan contaminated by NDMA.3 This estimate assumes the patient was taking the highest daily valsartan dose of 320 mg over a period of 4 years. Prescribed dosages of valsartan range from 40 mg to 320 mg daily and lower strength tablets would contain less NDMA respectively than a higher strength tablet.3 This estimate also assumes that every tablet taken over the four-year period contained NDMA. Not all batches affected by the recall actually contained the impurities and over a four year period of refilling the prescription it is unlikely that a patient was exposed to the amount of NDMA calculated in the 1 in 8,000 risk.

With that being said, even if the risk of getting cancer is smaller than 1 in 8,000 it doesn’t take into account the emotional toll this recall can have on a patient that has taken a potentially affected blood pressure medication. NDEA was discovered after NDMA and the FDA does not yet have a risk estimate for the later impurity but will update the information as soon as it becomes available.3

What Should You Do?

If you or someone you know is taking an ARB for the treatment of high blood pressure, check the FDA website regularly. A list of affected medication with their lot and expiration dates can be found for all valsartan, irbesartan, and losartan included in the recall. Again, not all ARBs are affected, and if you are unsure how to match the lot and expiration dates on the medication you picked up from the pharmacy, call and talk to your pharmacist. If you are taking a medication affected in the recall, your pharmacist may be able to recommend or provide you with an unaffected medication by a different manufacturer. The FDA recommends you take your current medication as prescribed until you can get a replacement from your pharmacist or doctor.3

 

References

  1. Ogbru, O. (n.d.). Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) Drug Facts, Side Effects and Dosing. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/angiotensin_ii_receptor_blockers/article.htm
  2. Zhao, Y., Li, P., Zhang, J., Wang, L. and Yi, Z. (2018). Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers and Cancer Risk. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863811/
  3. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Drug Safety and Availability – Questions and Answers: Impurities found in certain generic angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) products. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm626122.htm

 


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by Jenny Bingham, PharmD, BCACP; Heather Lee, PharmD Candidate; Mitchell Welton, PharmD Candidate

In such a competitive cholesterol medication market, manufacturers have been forced to make drastic cuts to their medication costs. Amgen lowered its product by 60%, followed by a 45-70% reduction from Regeneron. The price reductions occurred in response to the national consumer’s options to trial a multitude of more affordable options for cholesterol management, based on their clinical goals.

To better understand each product, a comparison should be made between each medication’s indication, effectiveness, and price.

Praluent

Praluent is an adjunct for patients who have uncontrolled cholesterol levels despite the presence of high intensity statin therapy.1 It is indicated for patients with atherosclerosic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) who would benefit from an additional reduction of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Praluent has been reported to reduce cholesterol levels by >=40% of patients who taking a maximally tolerated dose of statin.2 It was also reported to be effective at reducing cardiovascular outcomes and all-cause death by 15% in patients who have acute coronary syndrome.3 The primary patient population that would obtain the most benefit from Praluent are patients who have high LDL cholesterol levels.3 A recent price reduction by Regeneron and Sanofi occurred in May 2018. The price decreased from $14,600/year to a range of $4,500 to $8,000/year via rebate.4

Repatha

Repatha is indicated for the treatment of hyperlipidemia and has been reported to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.6 Evidence demonstrates the potential for plaque reduction if used with statin therapy. Amgen recently followed suit with lowering the price of Repatha after competitors Regeneron and Sanofi lowered the price of their competing product as mentioned above. Prior to the lowered cost in October the annual price of Repatha was $14,100/year. Amgen initially offered a prescription savings card for eligible patients, however patients with federal, state, or government-funded healthcare insurance were excluded. The new cost is $5,850/year, a nearly 60% decrease in cost. Amgen recently announced new opportunities for Medicare patients to benefit from therapy as the result of the price cut. 7

What to Ask Your Provider and/or Pharmacist

With the new, more affordable prices, you might be curious if these medications are best for your cholesterol management and cardiovascular health. It’s important to maintain routine appointments with your provider to ensure your cholesterol levels are monitored appropriately. Based upon your lab results and medication history, your provider and/or pharmacist may deem it appropriate to trial one of the above noted medications. However, it’s also important to adhere to provider recommendations about lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise.

References:

  1. Accessdata.fda.gov: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2015/125559Orig1s000lbledt.pdf. Published 2018. (accessed 29 Nov 2018)
  2. Alirocumab (Praluent) to Lower LDL-Cholesterol. JAMA. 2015;314(12):1284. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.11372
  3. American College of Cardiology: https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2018/03/05/15/53/sat-9am-odyssey-outcomes-cv-outcomes-with-alirocumab-after-acs-acc-2018 (accessed 29 Nov 2018)
  4. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/regeneron-sanofi-chop-cholesterol-drug-price-in-express-scripts-pact.html. Published 2018. (accessed 29 Nov 2018)
  5. Repatha (Evolocumab Injection, for Subcutaneous Injection): Side Effects, Interactions, Warning, Dosage & Uses. (n.d.): https://www.rxlist.com/repatha-drug.htm#indications.
  6. CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/drug-repatha-with-a-statin-could-help-reverse-heart-disease/ (accessed 4 Dec 2018)
  7. CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/24/amgen-cuts-price-of-cholesterol-drug-by-almost-60percent.html (accessed 4 Dec 2018).

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by Mitchell Welton, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona

The use of marijuana draws a wide range of strong opinions out of people. Its advocates will tout all of its potential benefits of medical marijuana, while its opponents try to draw from the negative stigma that surrounds it. As in all hotly contested topics, the truth usually falls somewhere in between the opposing viewpoints. While the use of marijuana still remains illegal at the federal level, there are many states that have approved its medical use for qualifying individuals to treat certain conditions, and even fewer states have approved its recreational use.

California was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996 and since then many states have followed suit. About a dozen states have legalized marijuana for medical use. The difference between medical and recreational use warrants its own discussion and the disagreement can be seen at a legislative level with more leniency being extended to medical over recreational. This author would generalize medical marijuana in this article as containing a higher concentration of CBD over THC, for all intents and purposes, in order to discuss medical marijuana compared to FDA approved cannabinoids.

Medical Marijuana (MMJ) Uses

The two chemicals of interest found in marijuana are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) although the plant itself may contain up to 400 different chemicals. A recreational smoker would be looking for a higher concentration of THC which is the psychoactive component delivering the “high” that users seek. 1 CBD is the cannabinoid that doesn’t produce the “high” and has recently been approved by the FDA as an oral solution, called Epidiolex, to treat seizures. There are currently only three FDA approved, cannabinoid medications on the market. 2

The first of these medications was approved in 1985 by the FDA known as Marinol or dronabinol. A synthetic form of THC first approved for the treatment of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. Its indication was expanded to include the treatment of weight loss and anorexia in people with AIDS. Other studies have found efficacy in achieving pain relief in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and treating other neuropathic pain. 3 Cesamet, or nabilone, is another synthetic cannabinoid that mimics THC also approved in 1985 for the treatment of chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting with off label use to treat fibromyalgia shown in a 2011 systematic review of cannabinoids for chronic pain. 4 The third, Epidiolex, has already been mentioned which is the first FDA approved drug derived from marijuana. The previous two drugs where synthetic. Epidiolex is used in the treatment of two rare, but severe forms of epilepsy. 2

MMJ Safety Factors

There are multiple factors to consider when thinking of safety between the two types of marijuana. First that comes to mind is the administration. Let’s take dronabinol for example as it has been around the longest from an FDA approval standpoint and such has been examined in multiple studies. This is a liquid filled capsule taken by mouth. Like many oral medications it may take some time for it to be absorbed which means a delay in its effect. This is something to keep in mind as a quick onset of action would be preferred when treating nausea and vomiting. Once the capsule is taken by mouth and absorbed the next consideration is its excretion from the body.

Dronabinol has an elimination half life of 19 to 36 hours meaning there will be a therapeutic level of the medication in the blood for a significant period of time. Other considerations I would bring to attention of the reader is the environment in which the medication is produced. Part of the FDA requirement is the manufacturing standard the medication is subjected to. Conditions must be controlled in its production which would allow us to assume there would be little tainting or contamination. Lastly, this synthetic medication is a pure isomer of THC meaning the end user is not consuming the potential 400 other chemicals found in the marijuana plant which could account for less of a “high” from any other psychoactive cannabinoids. 5

Marijuana in contrast when smoked has a much more rapid onset of action however may be inappropriate for use in patients with asthma or COPD. Ingesting marijuana will have a slower onset and more unpredictable absorption. Once in the system the body would eliminate marijuana faster than dronabinol. Though its production is not regulated like the FDA approved medications, each state has its own laws limiting the cultivating of your own marijuana and licensing of larger cannabis farms. 5

No matter where you might stand on the issue, there is a place in healthcare for the use of marijuana. The question lies in the best way to regulate and manage it. It is important to always evaluate safety and efficacy with any treatment used. Patients should always be treated with evidence-based methods and in accordance to state and federal laws. For better or for worse marijuana, and its use, continues to garner support and opposition in larger numbers. This is a landscape that will continue to change as we look for developments in the application of its use.

 

References:

  1. What Is the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana? (2018, September 10). Retrieved from https://docmj.com/2017/06/05/difference-medical-recreational-marijuana/
  2. Office of the Commissioner. (n.d.). Press Announcements – FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm611046.htm
  3. Dronabinol: Marinol. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2018, from Micromedex.
  4. Nabilone: Cesamet. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2018, from Micromedex.
  5. Morrow, A. (n.d.). Marinol or Marijuana: Which Is Better? Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/is-marinol-better-than-smoked-marijuana-1132483

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flu booster shot - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

by Heather Lee, University of Arizona PharmD Candidate

With flu season upon us, make sure you pencil in a date to get your flu shot. You may wonder why this is so important, and why your healthcare providers are always asking whether you received it. Influenza (the flu) is a huge threat to public health. It has been shown that around 5 to 20 percent of the United States population get the flu during flu season.1 Hospitalization rates and death rates are quite high, with more than 200,000 people being hospitalized and around 36,000 deaths every year. Getting the flu vaccine not only lowers your risk of getting sick, but it also protects the people around you, too.2 With the risk of it turning into a serious and fatal threat, you should vaccinate against it to protect yourself and the ones you love.

What is the flu?

The flu is a disease that is caused by a virus. It is contagious, meaning it can be spread from person-to-person. It is spread when someone who has the flu sneezes, coughs, or talks and spread droplets. The droplets land on the noses or mouths of nearby people, or on surfaces that were near the sick person. If other people touch the surface and then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, they can also get infected with the flu.2

Some common flu symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Muscle/body aches
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired2

More serious complications of flu include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Inflammation of the brain or heart
  • Worsening of a health condition, such as asthma or heart failure
  • Sepsis (a life-threatening infection)2

Who Needs It?

It is recommended that everyone who is able to get the vaccine who is 6 months of age or older should receive the vaccine every season.3 There are some people who are at high risk of developing flu complications, so it is important to receive the vaccine if you fall into the following categories:

  • Children younger than 5 years, but especially children younger than 2 years
  • Adults 65 years and older
  • Pregnant women
  • Women up to 2 weeks postpartum
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • If you have certain medical conditions (asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, etc).4

Children who are between 6 months to 8 years require 2 doses of the vaccine if they are getting vaccinated for the first time or if they have only gotten one dose.5 Receiving two doses will provide children with a better immune response and more protection.5 The two doses should be separated by at least 28 days. For adults, only one dose per season is necessary. Research has shown no benefit in boosting immunity in adults who have received two doses in the same flu season, even in elderly people who have weakened immune systems.6

*There are some groups who should not get the vaccines. These include children younger than 6 months, if you have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or an ingredient it contains (eggs or gelatin), or if you have Guillain-Barrré Syndrome (an immune system disorder).2

Side Effects of Flu Shot

The most common side effects usually affect the area of injection, such as redness, pain, or swelling of where you received the shot.2 Other side effects are headaches, muscle aches, fever, or an upset stomach. These side effects usually go away in a few days. It is rare to get a serious side effect from the flu vaccine, but the person administering the vaccine can observe you for any serious side effects. The flu shot will not cause you to get the flu; it serves to boost your immune response to prevent the flu.

Sign Me Up

The benefits of getting the flu vaccines drastically outweigh the risks of the vaccine. Even though you may risk getting a sore arm or a headache, you still walk out with a lower chance of getting infected with the flu. Preventing the flu helps to keep you from developing the more serious complications, such as being in the hospital with pneumonia or even death. The best time to get vaccinated is usually the end of October, but you can still get vaccinated throughout the flu season.6

Receiving the flu shot in January or later is still better than nothing, since flu season can last as late as May. Your local pharmacy should have the flu vaccine available during flu season, and there is usually no appointment necessary. The next time you step into your local pharmacy, stop by and ask your pharmacist when you can get the flu vaccine so you can protect you and your loved ones.

Resources:

  1. NIH Fact Sheets – Influenza. National Institutes of Health. https://report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=133. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Flu (Influenza). Vaccines.gov. https://www.vaccines.gov/diseases/flu/index.html. Published October 11, 2006. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  3. Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/vax-summary.htm. Published September 6, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  4. Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Published August 27, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  5. Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm. Published November 8, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.
  6. Influenza (Flu). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm. Published September 25, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2018.

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seasonal affective disorder - blog image- scriptsave wellrx

When winter rolls around, the holidays and the festivities that accompany the season follow suit. Turkey, the new year, and family, all of these jolly terms invoke the feeling of celebration and happiness. If you find yourself getting moody when the snow starts falling every year, do not fret. You are not alone. If you feel depressed during certain seasons, this is called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). About 5% of adults in the US experience SAD, and this usually lasts for approximately 40% of the year.1 This usually starts in the late fall and early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.2 This typically corresponds to when there is less sunlight, and symptoms improve with the returning sunlight that spring provides.1 The most challenging months for people tends to be January and February. It can even happen in the summer months, but this is less common.

Risk Factors

There are some characteristics that may increase your risk of getting SAD. If you are a female, you are four times more likely to develop this than men.2 In addition, where you live can play a role. If you live farther (north or south) from the equator, you are more likely to develop it. For example, it was seen that 1% of those who live in Florida can develop it versus 9% of those who live in Alaska.3 If your family has a history of other types of depression, this can play a role.2 Along with this, if you have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, your depression may worsen with the seasons. It has also been observed that younger adults have a higher risk. The age of onset is typically between 18 to 30 years of age.3

Seasonal Affective Disorder Signs And Symptoms

In order to be diagnosed with SAD, you must fulfill the criteria for major depression that occurs during specific seasons for at least 2 years. This may be more frequent than non-seasonal depressions.2 The symptoms of SAD typically look like those of major depressive disorder.

The typical symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless/worthless
  • Having low energy or feeling sluggish
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Trouble with sleep
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of suicide or death2

It is surprising that even the symptoms associated with winter SAD and summer SAD can differ. The typical winter SAD symptoms include:

  • Having low energy
  • Excessive sleepiness throughout the day (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating with possible weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Withdrawing from social activities (feels like “hibernating”)2

The typical summer SAD symptoms include:

  • Poor appetite with associated weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Agitation, restlessness, or anxiety
  • Violent behavior2

Treatment and Therapies

There are a couple treatment options to help resolve the symptoms quicker and make you feel better, rather than just waiting it out. SAD is mainly treated through light therapy.4 Light therapy involves you sitting in front of a light box for 20-60 minutes daily in the mornings.2 The idea behind this is so you can replace your reduced intake of sunlight during the fall and winter months. However, this may not be enough and you may be treated through a different method, such as antidepressant medications, talk therapy, vitamin D supplementation, or a combination of the therapies. Medications include the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and bupropion, which are types of antidepressants. Common SSRI’s include sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and citalopram (Celexa). You may have to follow up with your doctor whether this is an appropriate treatment for you, and you may have to switch antidepressants around to determine which is the right one that works for you. It may take several weeks for the medications to work, so your doctor may recommend to start taking it before your symptoms usually start every year.5

Another treatment option is talk therapy, which is also known as psychotherapy. A type of talk therapy that is used for SAD is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT involves you talking with a mental health counselor to identify negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts. They will help you identify activities that are enjoyable to help you cope with the winter and to help you manage stress. Vitamin D supplementation itself is not regarded as an effective treatment, but there have been some studies that suggest it may be as effective as light therapy.2 On the other hand, there are some studies that oppose that thought. The reason why you might be supplemented with this is that low levels of vitamin D were found in people with SAD.

Following up with your Doctor

If you find yourself nodding to these symptoms and thinking they sound like what you are experiencing, don’t worry. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your signs and symptoms. If you are taking any medications at home, such as prescription, over-the-counter, and herbals, be sure to update them with this information, because this may change what treatment you receive. From there, your doctor can discuss with you what treatment options may be appropriate. It may take a couple tries to figure out what treatment works best, but this is common. With treatment, you will soon be able to tackle the winter with renewed vigor.

 

References:

  1. Warning Signs of Mental Illness. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder. Accessed November 9, 2018.
  2. Seasonal Affective Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml. Accessed November 9, 2018.
  3. Melrose S. Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches. Depress Res Treat. 2015;2015:1-6. doi:10.1155/2015/178564
  4. Seasonal Affective Disorder. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html. Published March 6, 2018. Accessed November 9, 2018.
  5. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722. Published October 25, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2018.

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2019 drug formulary changes - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

In the world of prescription drug insurance, there are medications that are covered by a health plan and some medications that are not covered. The list of drugs that are covered is known as the Prescription Drug Formulary (or “Formulary” for short).

What is a Prescription Drug Formulary?

If you’ve ever visited a pharmacy with a prescription in one hand and your insurance card in the other, only to be told that your medication is not covered by your insurance … but if your doctor is willing to change the prescription to a similar drug used to treat the same condition … you have first-hand experience of a Prescription Drug Formulary.

The formulary is a list of approved medications for which an insurer has agreed to help cover the cost. However, there might be multiple manufacturers of numerous drugs designed to treat the same condition. This is an opportunity for the insurance company to trim costs by only agreeing to cover one drug for each health condition.

For pharmaceutical manufacturers, this can be a very big deal to be included or excluded from an insurer’s formulary list. Accordingly, each health plan generally reviews its coverage list on an annual basis. This helps ensure they continue to get the best possible price-points for the competing medications that are available to treat high-cost health conditions.

For patients, this can mean that, each year, they may discover the drug they had been taking is no longer covered. This may require them to switch to an alternative medication to continue receiving help paying for the medication from their insurance provider.

Prescription Formulary Changes for 2019

At the time of this write-up, the calendar is fast approaching year-end, and new insurance plan-years for 2019. Many formulary lists are likely to change. Two of the largest managers of prescription drug formularies in the U.S. are Express Scripts and CVS Caremark. Here are the details of the medications these two companies are REMOVING from their lists for 2019:

Acanya  Humatrope  Saizen 
Acticlate  Invokamet XR  Savaysa 
Alcortin A  Invokamet  Sorilux 
Alocril  Invokana  Sovaldi 
Alomide  Jentadueto XR  Synerderm 
Alprolix  Jentadueto  Targadox 
Altoprev  Lazanda  Tirosint 
Atripla  Levicyn  Topicort spray 
Avenova  Levorphanol  Tradjenta 
Benzaclin  Lupron Depot-Ped  Uroxatral 
Berinert  Mavyret  Vagifem 
Brisdelle  Maxidex  Vanatol LQ 
Brovana  Nalfon  Vanatol S 
Cambia  Namenda XR  Veltin 
Chorionic Gonadotropin Neupro patch  Verdeso foam 
Climara Pro  Norco  Viagra 
Contrave ER  Norditropin  Vivelle-Dot 
Cortifoam  Nutropin AQ Nuspin  Xadago 
Daklinza  Nuvigil  Xerese cream 
Duzallo  Olysio  Xyntha Solofuse 
Eloctate Omnitrope  Xyntha 
Emadine  Onexton  Yasmin 
Embeda  Oxycodone ER  Zemaira 
Extavia  Pradaxa  Ziana 
Fasenra  Praluent  Zolpimist 
Fenoprofen (capsule) Pred Mild  Zomacton 
Fenortho  Pregnyl  Zonegran 
Flarex  Prolastin-C  Zuplenz 
FML Forte  Qsymia  Zurampic 
FML S.O.P.  Recombinate  Zypitamag

If your medications are listed above (and if your insurer uses Express Scripts or CVS Caremark to manage their formulary) you can speak to your doctor or pharmacist about alternative medications designed to treat the same health condition. You can check these alternatives against your insurer’s new formulary list for 2019.

What If My Drugs Are Excluded?

It may also be worth double-checking the cash-price (i.e., the price without insurance) for your current medication. You can do this by clicking the drug name link in the list above. This can be a worthwhile effort, as the cash-price can often be lower than an insurance copay [Read more about Always Ask Cash Price]

What If I Can’t Switch to a Covered Alternative Drug?

If you’re unable to switch medications, you may be able to get some help from the FREE ScriptSave WellRx program. We negotiate savings on the cash-prices of medications at over 65,000 retail pharmacies across the United States. Patients can save up to 80% (relative to the cash price of their prescription).

Our price-check tool is available for free — no sign-up necessary. Go to www.wellrx.com or download the ScriptSave WellRx mobile app on iOS and Android to see how much you’ll save on your prescription costs!

 

 

pharmacy gag clause quiz - scriptsave wellrx - blog image

For years, contractual clauses have kept pharmacy employees from telling their customers when a better price was available than their insurance copay for prescription medications. Recent congressional legislation has made changes to how that works.

So, how much do you know about how the Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018 and Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act? Learn more about the impacts to the pharmacy customer by taking the Practice Trends quiz at pharmacist.com.

For more in-depth information on the latest changes to the ‘Gag Clause’ laws, check out our latest blog post, Outlawing Pharmacy Gag Clauses.

 


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by Robert “Jed” Swackhammer, Ohio State University

The Patient Dilemma

A patient recently had a primary care follow-up appointment with her physician. She was concerned about waking up during the middle of the night sweaty, shaky, and dizzy. The patient’s physician decided to decrease, her insulin dosage of Lantus, a long-acting insulin.

A few weeks later, the patient received a phone call from her community pharmacist regarding a refill gap on her insulin. The patient stated that her doctor decreased her dosage of Lantus due to low blood sugars in the middle of night. The pharmacist then asked, what insulin where you injecting in the evening? The patient responded, “My Humalog,” a rapid acting insulin.

The patient had been mistakenly taking her Humalog before bed without eating, but her doctor assumed she was using the Lantus, as prescribed. It was at this time the pharmacist counseled the patient on the differences between her insulins and the appropriate time to inject them. After concluding the phone call, the pharmacist advised the patient to follow-up with her physician if her blood sugars remained uncontrolled within a week. A month later, the patient called her community pharmacist to report her symptoms resolved and her blood sugars were controlled!

Working With All Healthcare Providers

Currently, many healthcare professionals are having problems balancing the numerous responsibilities present in their day-to-day jobs. Consequently, this impacts patient care. A difficult and complicated question to ask is what should patients look for in a healthcare professional? The solution is to observe their willingness to work with all your healthcare providers. Consequently, it is important that your healthcare professional is an excellent communicator and prioritizes your needs.

Patient-focused Care

Recent studies by BioMed Central Health Services Research identified 25 different patient-centered care models. The main takeaway from the study was patient-care models consisted of communication, partnership, and health promotion to meet the needs of patients.[1] Similarly, the Nursing Clinics of North America states that in order to improve quality of care in the United States, there needs to be continued focus on 6 dimensions: safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable.[2]

It’s vital that healthcare professionals (i.e. physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, pharmacist, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, oncologist, and many others) work with one another so that you, as a patient, receive optimal care. With this collaboration, your healthcare team will be able to appropriately share information, deliver compassionate and empowering care, and consider the sensitivity of you as an individual while addressing your needs.[3]

With the aging Baby Boomer population, all healthcare professionals should appropriately equip themselves to focus on taking care of each patient individually instead of just isolated conditions. In dealing with the rise in our elderly population, the American College of Clinical Pharmacy states that “multiple articles have been published in support of clinical pharmacists’ involvement in patient-centered medical homes (PCMH) to help complete team‐based care, enhance patient access, transitions of care, and improve the quality and safety of patient-care”.[4] All professions have a unique position on this team, including pharmacists, because we all bring a different perspective and lens with which to view and treat our patients.

It is vital that all healthcare professionals work together to help deliver optimal patient care. As a patient, you can ensure that this by observing current and future healthcare professional’s ability to communicate with one another. Remember, communication is vital, so that you can be treated as a patient and your needs are addressed.

References:

[1] Bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com. (2018). [online] Available at: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1472-6963-14-271 [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018].

[2] Owens L, Koch R. Understanding Quality Patient Care and the Role of the Practicing Nurse. Science Direct. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cnur.2014.10.003. Published 2018. Accessed August 27, 2018.

[3] Bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com. (2018). [online] Available at: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1472-6963-14-271 [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018].

[4] Onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu. (2018). Shibboleth Authentication Request. [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/doi/abs/10.1002/phar.1357 [Accessed 27 Aug. 2018].


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

Diabetes, Cancer, HIV, seizures, pregnancy, organ transplant… chances are high that you or someone you know have experienced or are currently suffering from one of these conditions. But what do they all have in common? They’re all diagnosed or screened for with lab tests. Diagnostic lab test results influence approximately 60 to 70 percent of medical decisions. Without lab tests, we wouldn’t know what to do!1

What Are Lab Tests?

A lab test is searching for something specific in your body, and can use your blood, saliva, urine, feces, breath, or organ tissue (tissue biopsy). These tests can help you and your physician determine the presence, absence, or extent of disease or monitor the effectiveness of a treatment2. They are performed by having blood drawn, spitting into a cup, having your cheek swabbed, urinating into a cup, or breathing into a special device. Some examples of lab tests you may already be familiar with are a DNA test to determine if a man is the father of a child, a urine drug test for employment, an HIV screen to test if someone does or does not have HIV, a finger-prick blood sugar test, or an alcohol breath test (breathalyzer).

Why Should I Get a Lab Test?

If you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms, a lab test may help guide you toward a diagnosis. For example, if you’ve been feeling tired and fatigued lately a lab test may determine if your thyroid is underperforming, if you have anemia, if you have an electrolyte imbalance, or if you’re developing a chronic disease such as diabetes. Sometimes, lab tests are repeated to confirm a diagnosis. If you know you’re a carrier for a disease or have a close relative with a disease you should be screened regularly3.

Catching a condition or disease early gives you more treatment options, more opportunity for lifestyle modifications, and saves you time and money4. Screenings help establish a baseline that is unique to you, and some screenings (such as breast or colon cancer) become mandatory with age. A lab test can determine how well certain organs are working, and monitor their function – most especially the kidneys, liver, heart, thyroid, and pancreas, this is especially handy as you age.

Anyone needing an organ transplant or anyone wanting to donate an organ or blood will have blood typing and compatibility testing done. Certain medications, called narrow therapeutic index drugs, as well as antibiotics, are monitored to make sure those levels don’t get too high or too low and verify treatment is working. Lab tests also can be used to substantiate specific events; such as an exposure to heavy metals, or the administration of a rape kit.

What Lab Tests are Important?

Critical or required lab tests vary by individual and their current health levels. An 80-year-old man with diabetes and a foot infection is going to need different tests than a healthy 28-year-old pregnant woman. Some lab tests are precise and reliable, while others provide general clues to possible health problems. For a generally healthy individual, some common tests that are done at your routine checkup that establish your baseline are things like:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) which differentiates types of blood cells
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP) that determines your cholesterol, hormone levels, electrolytes, and enzymes;
  • Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C or A1C) which measures how much sugar is attached to your hemoglobin (the stuff in your blood that carries oxygen) and determines your risk of developing diabetes.

If you have an infection, a culture and sensitivity test will be ordered so your physician knows what the offending bacteria is and the appropriate antibiotic to treat it. Participating in your own health care is paramount to your well-being, so ask your doctor what tests are right for you.

Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Having a Lab Test5

  • What will this test measure? A patient on the “blood-thinner” warfarin would want to check their INR, a patient with diabetes would measure their A1C. Knowing what you’re measuring will ensure you get only the necessary tests.
  • Why is this test necessary? Someone that has seizures may need their medication levels monitored to ensure the levels are safe and appropriate. A person with an unsteady gait may need a test to rule in or rule out Huntington’s Disease. If it’s necessary, your doctor will be able to explain the test and why.
  • Are there risks or side effects to this test? Most lab tests are benign, but some do come with some risks or negative side effects. A biopsy patient may want to have someone else to drive them to and from their appointment. Ask your physician so you can prepare accordingly.
  • How do I prepare for this test? Some tests require fasting, others require drinking a special preparation beforehand, while some require no preparation at all. Every test is different, but it’s important to follow the directions so you don’t have to repeat the test.
  • What results should I expect from this test? Results can be confusing. Sometimes you want a positive, sometimes you want a negative, other tests you may want a high number or a low number. Understanding what a normal value is will help you to interpret your result.
  • How often will I need to do this test? As mentioned earlier, some tests will be repeated to ensure the diagnosis is correct. Some screenings are done annually to monitor any changes.  Some tests are daily or weekly. Other tests are only done once, so be sure to ask how often a test is needed.

If you don’t understand something, be sure to ask your doctor to explain it to you. Some additional factors that may influence your lab test results are:

  • age
  • sex
  • race
  • weight
  • diet
  • alcohol or tobacco use
  • caffeine intake
  • stress level, and,
  • hydration status

Always request a copy of your results, and retain it for your personal medical record. After all, it is your health!

References

  1. Ngo, Andy, et al. “Frequency That Laboratory Tests Influence Medical Decisions.” The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine, The Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine, 1 Jan. 2017, jalm.aaccjnls.org/content/1/4/410.
  2. Kennedy, A G. “Evaluating Diagnostic Tests.” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27091221.
  3. Elmore, Joann G. “Screening for Breast Cancer.” JAMA Internal Medicine, American Medical Association, 9 Mar. 2005, jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/200479.
  4. Yong, PL. Saunders, R. and Olsen, L. (2018) Missed Prevention Opportunities from The Healthcare Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes Roundtable. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53914
  5. Talking with your doctor. No author. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/doctor-patient-communication

 


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by Randall Flores, PharmD Candidate 2019
University of Arizona

Bleeding can manifest itself in a variety of different ways which, at times, may not be easy to recognize. Some bleeds are also more serious than others and may require emergency medical attention. Bleeding frequency may also vary depending on a variety of factors such as underlying bleeding disorders or the use of certain medications.5

Potential Signs of Different Types of Bleeding

Gastrointestinal Bleeds5 
  • Bloody or black, tar-like stool
  • Weakness
  • Paleness
  • Swollen or firm abdomen
  • Vomiting or coughing blood
  • Abdominal or stomach pain
Urinary Tract Bleeds5  
  • Bright red or brown-colored urine
  • Pink urination
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Lower-back pain
Nosebleeds5  
  • Prolonged headache
  • Confusion, lethargy, and/or slurred speech
  • Discomfort to bright light
  • Double vision
  • Enlarged pupils or different size pupils
  • Dizziness and/or stumbling
  • Stiff neck or back
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden or forceful vomiting not due to upset stomach
Throat Bleeds5  
  • Choking
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Swelling or discoloration in the neck
  • Change in tone of voice
Eye Bleeds5  
  • Swelling or pain within or around the eye
  • Reddening of the white part of the eye
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Change in vision

Monitoring Lab Results While Taking Anticoagulants

Anticoagulation therapy is vital to the prevention and treatment of thromboembolic diseases; however, close monitoring is very important to treat and prevent harmful adverse effects. Lab monitoring is an important part of anticoagulation therapy to determine if it is necessary to counterbalance the anticoagulant effect of the drug4. Each drug has its own recommendations on lab monitoring depending on how it works in the body and possible adverse effects.

Coumadin (warfarin) remains the most prescribed oral anticoagulant medication worldwide despite the higher risk for bleeding compared to alternative anticoagulants1. The use of warfarin entails frequent blood tests and patient education about food and drug interactions4. The laboratory test that are most frequently monitored are prothrombin time (PT) and international normalized ratio (INR). PT is a test used to measure the number of seconds it takes for a clot to form3. INR on the other hand, is a more standardized PT measure so that it may serve as a reference value on how to adjust the dose depending on the result3. Higher INRs represent thinner blood, while lower INRs represent thicker blood.  [ Read more on our blog post, Losing the War With Warfarin? ]

New oral anticoagulants (NOACs) now formally known as direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) have a few advantages over the use of warfarin. DOACs include dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and apixaban (Eliquis). One of the biggest advantages over warfarin is that DOACs typically do not require dose adjustments and routine monitoring4. There are however some recommendations of monitoring certain parameters in patients with specific circumstances and comorbidities. Kidney function is an important parameter to monitor because all DOACs are eliminated by the kidney and impairment is a risk factor for bleeding1.

Antidote Medications to Reverse the Effects of Anticoagulants?

There are several reversal agent options for warfarin, despite its challenging management. The reversal agents used for warfarin include phytonadione (vitamin K), fresh frozen plasma (FFP), and prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC)2. The availability of these agents makes warfarin a viable option for patients who are at increased risk of bleeding and enables it to still be recommended by guidelines2.

DOACs are becoming more popular due to safety and efficacy over other anticoagulants, however only one of these agents has an FDA-approved reversal agent. Praxbind (idarucizumab) received accelerated FDA approval due to its promising results in clinical trials as a reversal agent to dabigatran (Pradaxa)2.

Currently, there is one agent called andexanet alfa that in phase III clinical trials as a reversal agent to the remaining DOAC agents2. As the use of DOAC agents become more popular, the need for effective antidotes is demanded.

Whether a someone is on anticoagulant therapy or not, it is important for people to have a general understanding about bleeding risks and how to identify different types of bleeds. Patients on anticoagulant therapy should also have a general idea about the monitoring that their therapy entails, potential risks, and management of those risks. The more patients know, the lower their chance of hospitalization from bleeding.

References:

1 Conway, S. E., Hwang, A. Y., Ponte, C. D., & Gums, J. G. (2016). Laboratory and Clinical Monitoring of Direct Acting Oral Anticoagulants: What Clinicians Need to Know. Pharmacotherapy, 37(2), 236-248. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/phar.1884

2 Griffiths, C., Vestal, M., Livengood, S. and Hicks, S. (2017). Reversal agents for oral anticoagulants. [online] The Nurse Practitioner. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/tnpj/fulltext/2017/11000/Reversal_agents_for_oral_anticoagulants.2.aspx [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].

3 Hull , R., Garcia, D., Vazquez, S. (2018). Warfarin (Coumadin) Beyond the Basics. UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/warfarin-coumadin-beyond-the-basics

4 Ramos-Esquivel, A. (2015). Monitoring anticoagulant therapy with new oral agents. World Journal of Methodology5(4), 212–215. http://doi.org/10.5662/wjm.v5.i4.212

5 The Basics of Bleeding Disorders. (2018). National Hemophilia Foundation. Retrieved September 19, 2018, from https://stepsforliving.hemophilia.org/basics-of-bleeding-disorders/identifying-types-of-bleeds


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As a nation, we spend over $5 trillion a year to feed our bodies.[1] That’s the value of food sold each year in the United States through retail and food service including nearly 38,000 supermarkets, an estimated 150,000 convenience stores, and over one million restaurants. The U.S. food industry is immense, touching every person in the nation every day.

We then spend trillions more each year taking care of ourselves. The U.S. healthcare industry is massive, projected to be over $5 trillion a year by 2025 and representing an estimated 20% of the country’s GDP.[2]

So we have two titanic industries that touch each consumer… and yet food and healthcare are largely disconnected. Plus, with 40,000+ unique products in a typical grocery store, the choices are overwhelming to the average consumer trying to shop for foods to appease any number of nutrition-sensitive health conditions.

Personalized Wellness

At ScriptSave, our vision of personalized wellness aligns managed care organizations, healthcare providers, employers, food manufacturers and retailers to improve and maintain the wellness of each individual. The power of the personalized wellness vision lies in the economic benefits provided to each member of this ecosystem.

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The personalized wellness food-health supply chain begins with the individual consumer, an understanding of his or her health condition, and food products beneficial to that condition. As the source of food, retailers become, in a sense, an extension of personalized healthcare, and a trusted partner in wellness for each individual. What better loyalty for a retailer than helping customers live healthier lives?

Public Health Implications

The implications from a public health perspective are enormous. 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and 60% of the U.S. population is dealing with at least one chronic health condition. Our aim is to evaluate food products based on their nutritional attributes and provide insight to possible grocery alternatives that are more favorably aligned with each shopper’s personal health and wellness goals.  Our vision is no less ambitious than to improve health outcomes for millions of individuals.

ScriptSave is mobilizing key participants to realize the Personalized Wellness vision. Purchase validation of beneficial products creates a powerful feedback loop:

  • Improves future recommendations
  • Powers performance-based incentives provided by managed care organizations
  • Helps providers drive improved outcomes
  • Provides brand manufacturers powerful insight to shopper needs

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The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

It is only recently that artificial intelligence data and technologies are available to personalize, at a product level, food recommendations that are beneficial to each individual. Deconstructing nutrition information to countless data attributes enables powerful linkage between health conditions and the hundreds of thousands of food products available across the United States. What makes it all work is the ability to convey personalized food guidance to the individual via the smartphone in their hand while in the store aisle.

“Food is the area consumers really want to deal with the most,” states Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, health economist for Think Health. “Nobody really wants to take medicine. People would rather project-manage health through food as prescription.”[3] A recent meeting with a physician group highlighted the shortcomings of efforts to date as doctors explained patients forget nearly everything within 24 hours of leaving the office.

Perhaps what is most powerful about the personalized wellness vision is that everyone across the food-healthcare supply chain benefits from improved health outcomes and quality of life for the individual. Retailers gain stronger customer relationships as they come to be viewed as true partners in wellness, and consumer goods brand manufacturers have a path to redemption from the processed foods abyss.

About ScriptSave:

For more than two decades, ScriptSave has been closing the gaps in healthcare and prescription coverage with innovative savings programs for the uninsured, under-insured, and insured. Headquartered in Tucson, ScriptSave solutions, analytics, and unique expertise save consumers money and increase medication adherence, while attracting and retaining loyal, profitable customers, members, and patients for our clients. ScriptSave is a member of the MedImpact, Inc. family of companies. For more information on ScriptSave WellRx – Personalized Wellness, go to www.wellrxplus.com. Follow us: @SSWellRx (Twitter), ScriptSave WellRx (Facebook).

References:

[1] “U.S. Food Retail Industry – Statistics & Facts”, Statista, www.statista.com/topics/1660/food-retail/

[2] Mark Hagland, “Medicare Actuaries: U.S. Healthcare Spending to Soar to $5.631 Trillion and 20.1 Percent of GDP in 2025”, www.healthcare-informatics.com, (July 18, 2016)

[3] Drug Store News, Future Trends: Self care, wellness shift to drive innovation in new, emerging health segments, www.drugstorenews.com, (August 18, 2017)


This blog post has been excerpted from the ScriptSave WellRx Personalized Wellness Whitepaper. You can read the full whitepaper content at Winsight Media:

http://www.winsightgrocerybusiness.com/wellness/health-wellness-gets-personal

http://www.winsightgrocerybusiness.com/wellness/personalized-wellness-virtual-dietitian

http://www.winsightgrocerybusiness.com/wellness/healthcare-food-align-benefit-individual

 

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