Tag Archives: pharmacy

Pharmacy access story gains stronger local angle from inventive use of study’s own data

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Ben Husmann via Flickr

Photo: Ben Husmann via Flickr

Local pharmacies have limited hours? Turns out that this is way more than an inconvenience. It may also be a factor in hospital readmissions. Patients who can’t easily get their medications from an accessible, nearby – and open! – pharmacy are more likely to end up back in the hospital.

Experts have been exploring possible reasons why so many patients bounce in and out of the hospital, and why it’s been hard to bring down the 30-day readmission rates, even with new financial incentives under the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

Reopening of CVS store highlights health access issues in Baltimore

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Vladimir Badikov via Flickr

Photo: Vladimir Badikov via Flickr

When Baltimore erupted last spring in the wake of the death of a young black man in police custody, the destruction and looting of one neighborhood CVS Pharmacy quickly became a symbol of the chaos.

Now, as the legal proceedings in the case of Freddie Gray continue, a small part of the Maryland city has healed with the reopening of the store on March 6. Continue reading

Program uses pharmacists to help manage complex health needs

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

Photo: Mikey G Ottawa via Flickr

As the Department of Health and Human Services continues its shift towards an outcomes-based payment model, one small health system is working with its pharmacists to create an innovative disease management initiative to minimize hospital readmissions and improve health status for its most complex – and costly – patients.

The Comprehensive Health Management program developed by Martin Health System in Stuart, Fla., establishes a progressive role for pharmacists to work directly with older, chronically ill patients. Integrating these neighborhood-based professionals into the system’s primary care practices improves management of patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart and lung disease, according to David Harlow, Pharm.D., assistant vice president for professional services, clinical imaging, clinical laboratory, clinical pharmacy and disease management at Martin. Continue reading

More patients aren’t filling brand-name prescriptions

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

It hasn’t had quite as much impact as some earlier health-related recession trend stories, but the rise in prescription abandonment rates, detailed in this post by Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman, is starting to snag a few headlines.

According to market research agency Wolters Kluwer, the number of prescriptions for brand-name submitted to a pharmacy but never picked up as crossed the 10 percent threshold, with patients now skipping out on twice as many prescriptions as they did before the recession. The number has been on the rise for a while now, as you can see in this Wall Street Journal graph. The agency releases the numbers every six months.

For more on the issue, I recommend the comment section of this related Pharmalot post.

Who monitors pharmacies’ systems to curb pseudoephedrine sales?

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

CVS Pharmacy has been in the news recently after it agreed to pay $75 million in penalties and forfeit $2.6 million in profits made from illegally selling pseudoephedrine. Scott Hensley did a nice job of explaining why the retailer got in trouble, which boils down to a defect in the electronic system the chain used.

As most allergy sufferers know, federal laws (and some state laws) limit how much pseudoephedrine consumers can buy. Retailers are left with the chore of monitoring who buys how much of the drug, which also can be used to make methamphetamine.

As the CVS case seems to show, and my personal experience backs up, retailers apparently can set up their own systems for tracking the sale of pseudoephedrine as long as they meet some basic requirements:

Regulated sellers are required to maintain a logbook, written or electronic, to record sales of products containing ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine. The seller must enter into the logbook the name of the product, and quantity sold. The customer must write or enter into the logbook their name, address, date, and time of sale. The customer must also sign the logbook. You may not sell the product unless these requirements are met.

What isn’t clear is who is regulating those systems.

If a retailer’s system doesn’t prevent someone from making multiple pseudoephedrine buys and exceeding the federal limit – as happened at CVS – or if a retailer’s computer program mistakenly calculates the wrong amount of pseudoephedrine contained in a medication, then the system is failing. In the case of CVS, the problem happened for more than a year at multiple locations.

Now, for that personal experience I mentioned earlier …

After recently being told I had met my limit of pseudoephedrine at a neighborhood pharmacy, despite the fact that I take less than the maximum dosage to control my allergies, I asked to look at the store’s records.

A sympathetic pharmacist showed me the log of my purchases and I discovered that when I bought a package of 18 pills, the store’s computer recorded it as a package of 18 pills, but it calculated the amount of pseudoephedrine in that package to be the same as what would be in a 36-count package. That amount of pseudoephedrine was what triggered the computer to tell the pharmacy not to sell any more to me.

Once I pointed out the error, the pharmacist got out a calculator and eventually concluded I was right. He was rather incredulous that the error could happen. He tells me that he’s put in a request with the company’s help desk to fix the problem.

However, I’m left wondering whether my name is flagged in a computer database somewhere because of the store’s error and how many other innocent people are also flagged. Not to mention how many allergy sufferers have been left unable to breathe properly because computer systems show they’ve bought more pseudoephedrine than they actually have.

Perhaps more importantly, what about the methamphetamine criminal cases that have been brought as a result of authorities examining these records? There was recently a large raid on meth labs in my area based on pharmacy records and the pharmacist I talked to said he’d been in court testifying recently in meth cases. Could errors in pharmacy records be a defense attorney’s dream?