Pharmacists will be canary in drug safety coal mine

March 20, 2006

Patients filling scripts at Bashas' United Drug pharmacies in Arizona will, like the canary in the coal mine, be the first to signal if there are problems with newly marketed drugs in the nation's first-of-its-kind active drug surveillance system.

Patients filling scripts at Bashas' United Drug pharmacies in Arizona will, like the canary in the coal mine, be the first to signal if there are problems with newly marketed drugs in the nation's first-of-its-kind active drug surveillance system.

In the beginning, the statewide Community Pharmacy Safety Network (CPSN) will compare the safety and effectiveness of two commonly prescribed asthma medications, one old and one new. Bashas' patients who fill prescriptions for either of the drugs will be asked to register with a call center created by the Arizona Poison Control and Drug Information Center. They will contact the call center to report on the effectiveness and side effects of their drugs. They will receive a Bashas gift card as an incentive to participate. The data will be analyzed, summarized, and sent to the Food & Drug Administration for review. As the project grows, more medications will come under surveillance.

CPSN was created last December when the Food & Drug Administration partnered with the Critical Path Institute (C-Path), the Arizona poison control center, and the University of Arizona Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics (AzCERT). The project is underwritten by grants from C-Path, AzCERT, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. C-Path was founded last July as a publicly funded nonprofit research and education institute by the FDA, the University of Arizona, and SRI International to develop faster, safer, and smarter pathways to new medical products.

"We are encouraged by C-Path's efforts to improve the way medicines are used and improve the interaction between patients and pharmacists, both having the potential to provide important information to the FDA, the medical and pharmacy communities, and to patients," said Paul Seligman, M.D., director, FDA Office of Pharmacoepidemiology and Statistical Science.