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Cancer Drug Prices Skyrocket...
Spending on oncology drugs doubled from 2012 to 2017, reaching nearly $50 billion, according to a new report. Two-thirds of the pricing growth is attributed to drugs launched within the past five years, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science.
All oncology drugs launched in the United States in 2017 carried list prices above $100,000 per year.
However, while outpatient drugs often result in high costs for payers, the patient responsibility averages less than $500 per year for commercial plans. Patient costs for retail drugs are often reduced by extensive use of coupons, IQVIA found.
Meanwhile, more than 700 cancer drugs are in late-stage development, an increase of 60% compared to 10 years ago.
…And So Do Medicare Drug Prices
Medicare recipients are paying more for brand name drugs than they used to, according to a recent HHS report. Part D recipients’ costs for branded drugs soared 40% from 2011 to 2015. They rose from $161 in 2011 to $225 in 2015, on average.
“Increases in unit prices for brand-name drugs resulted in Medicare and its beneficiaries paying more for these drugs,” the report says, noting that rising Medicare payments for brand-name drugs “will continue to affect Part D and its beneficiaries for years to come.”
The most persistent problem for Medicare beneficiaries is the high cost of maintenance medications for common chronic conditions such as diabetes, according to the report.
Children’s Hospitals Commit to Prevent IV Errors
ARxIUM, a pharmacy automation provider, and the Emily Jerry Foundation, (EJF) are teaming up to prevent medication errors in young patients.
The tech company and EJF will form a consortium of children’s hospitals committed to eliminating IV compounding errors by 2021. EJF is a nonprofit organization that focuses on increasing medication accuracy and raising awareness of preventable medical errors.
The objective of the program is to implement technologies that produce safe and accurate medications and improve internal processes and training for pharmacy staff. In addition, the partnership will support pediatric hospital executives and foundations in attracting and prioritizing investments toward safer IV compounding practices.
Shingles Vaccine Confusion
Some pharmacists are confusing the two shingles vaccines, and using the wrong administration route or diluent.
Shingrix (zoster vaccine recombinant, adjuvanted; GSK) is occasionally being confused with Zostavax (zoster vaccine live; Merck), according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). The two have different vaccination schedules, storage requirements, components/diluents, and administration routes.
In the past three months, ISMP received seven error reports. Two of those errors occurred in community pharmacies. Pharmacies should create a system to ensure that the Shingrix lyophilized component and adjuvant suspension vials are stored with one another to reduce the risk of using the diluent for another vaccine, ISMP says.
Hospitals Integrate Pharmacists
Ten U.S. hospitals are relying more on pharmacists to help lower risk-standardized mortality rates from heart attacks, according to a study.
While the study, published in the May American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, did not track mortality outcomes, it did reveal the ways that hospital cultures changed to integrate pharmacists in patient care. “Inclusion of pharmacists strengthened relationships across disciplines and allowed pharmacists to become routinely embedded in broader quality efforts,” the authors wrote.
Researchers from the Yale School of Public Health found that several organizations added pharmacists to rounds as part of an interdisciplinary team, but more commonly, pharmacists rounded separately to provide patient education.
Specialty Pharmacy Student Association Launches
Specialty pharmacy students have a new avenue for professional development and networking.
The National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) rolled out its Student Pharmacist Chapter Program-the Student Association of Specialty Pharmacy (SASP)-which will provide specialty pharmacy education, promote professional development, and offer networking opportunities for pharmacy students.
“It is essential that we prepare pharmacy students to take their place in this rewarding industry,” says Sheila Arquette, executive director of NASP.
Students involved in SASP will have the opportunity to participate in specialized workshops and educational sessions, as well as develop hands-on leadership skills.
PharmD Degrees Decline
In 2017, the second-largest number of PharmD degrees (14,502) were conferred in the history of pharmacy education-a slight decrease over 2016 (14,556) according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).
Student enrollment in pharmacy schools for Fall 2017 declined from 2016, but the decrease is only slight and could be attributed to colleges that did not report their figures.
“Had these schools reported their data, we could have easily seen an increase in degrees awarded over last year,” says Cecilia Plaza, PharmD, vice president of Academic Services, AACP.
Nationally, college enrollments have been declining for the past several years, “and this trend may just be beginning to impact pharmacy as well,” Plaza adds.