Top Stories from Drug Topics: April 2014

April 24, 2014

From controlled substances to retail chains in trouble and back to controlled substances, Drug Topics readers found plenty to talk about during the month of April.

Feelings ran high in April for many Drug Topics readers. What to do about opioids was a subject of heated debate, touched off by Steve Ariens’ two columns, “When valid prescriptions are refused” and “Filling prescriptions for controlled substances: Establish a protocol.” Readers also flocked to stories about chain pharmacies in hot water. CVS was the hands-down winner there, with “CVS sued for suspected fraudulent Rx reimbursements” hitting No. 2 for the month in under five days. What else captured your attention? Read on.

Steve Ariens’ “When valid prescriptions are refused” was far and away the leader in April, drawing twice as many page views as the next-closest story and a torrent of e-mails and posts that went on for days.

The month’s No. 2 story, “CVS sued for suspected fraudulent Rx reimbursements,” reported that an insurer and 18 states charge the pharmacy chain with collecting hundreds of millions of dollars for invalid claims made on controlled substances allegedly diverted to the black market. Incidentally, No. 8 on our list, “Thousands of painkillers missing from 4 CVS stores,” also concerns CVS and also concerns opioids. Draw your own conclusions.

Controlled substances were also the subject of April’s next most-read article, Steve Ariens’ follow-up piece, “Filling prescriptions for controlled substances: Establish a protocol.” Because Steve had not included a context for his earlier column (our bad), we asked him to outline his suggestions for appropriate dispensing and his perspective on the needs of chronic pain patients. Many readers responded by citing numerous pressures the article did not address. Clearly, it’s a tough problem, with no easy answers.

In the No. 4 spot, the same question of how to balance the needs of chronic pain patients against pressure not to fill was raised in Ken Baker’s April column on ethical decision-making in pharmacy, “Diversion of opioids: Red flags and green flags.” While satisfactory answers may be hard to discover, Drug Topics readers are not giving up on the questions.

For a temporary change of subject, the fifth most-read story in April was “Did pharmacy board give Walgreens special treatment?” The BOP in question was in Indiana, and the treatment in question was approval of the chain’s “Well Experience” initiative, which moves the pharmacist out of the pharmacy and further into the store, raising a slew of HIPAA concerns. The president of the Indiana BOP when the scheme was approved, one William J. Cover, RPh, is now employed by Walgreens as its corporate manager of pharmacy affairs. You see the problem.

Pain meds were the subject of four of the next five stories:

DEA vs. ADA: Pharmacists and the rock or the hard place

Walgreens to close 76 drugstores in 2014

Thousands of painkillers missing from 4 CVS stores

Makers of Zohydro fighting efforts to block opioid sales

DEA official blames pharmacists, doctors for pain-med denials

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