Voices 06-15-2013


Drug Topics readers weigh in

A word from PCMA

A recent Drug Topics cover story, “The PBM Squeeze,” [April 2013] neglects to mention that employers, unions, and other payers want more cost-savings options and reject the independent drugstore lobby’s agenda that would force them to pay more for prescription drugs.

The story references the independent drugstore lobby’s agenda in Oklahoma, but fails to note that the state’s largest employers, who provide coverage, would see higher costs. These employers include: Chesapeake Energy, American Fidelity Assurance, and Devon Energy. 

The Oklahoma bill would force employers to include drugstores that overcharge in their networks. That is wasteful spending and totally unnecessary to ensure that patients can go to nearby pharmacies. The United States has more pharmacies than it has McDonald’s, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Wendy’s, Taco Bells, Kentucky Fried Chickens, Domino’s Pizzas, and Dunkin’ Donuts combined. The drugstore lobby agenda would also raise costs in state government programs that offer health benefits.

Instead of new mandates that ban employers from offering lower-cost mail-service pharmacies or preferred pharmacy networks, the drugstore lobby should instead offer solutions that reduce costs.

Mark Merritt

President and CEO

Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Setting the record straight

My colleagues and I enjoy your publication monthly. We gain valuable knowledge from your many articles and also learn of new drugs that have been approved, etc. All in all, it is one of the publications that we do not miss reading, if possible.

A comment in one of the articles from the April 2013 issue has me puzzled. As a practicing pharmacist in New York State, I, of course, remain vigilant of any changes in the law. There have been a few changes recently, most of them in February of this year. A major change has been the reclassification of Hydrocodone to Schedule II.

While your article on page 22-23 [“New bipartisan bill to reclassify hydrocodone; www.drugtopics.com/hydrocodone] notes that the state of New York instituted restrictions on hydrocodone prescriptions, it also says that it requires physicians to send these RXs electronically.

Physicians in New York State are not allowed to send any prescriptions for controlled substances electronically. While that may be the direction that is taken in the future regarding the submission of these prescriptions, it is not an accurate statement at this time. See the following link for more info: http://www.op.nysed.gov/news/advisory-notices.html, Frequently Asked Questions.

I know that many in the pharmacy profession use the information you give them in their day-to-day practice. I wouldn’t want misleading or inaccurate information to be relayed to the current practicing pharmacists in New York State.

Maureen Mack, RPh

Elmira, N.Y.

HDS to BPC for SJW

Thank you for your recent column on interactions between pharmaceuticals and St. John's Wort [“Put St. John’s Wort behind the counter,” April 2013].

As a pharmacy/public health intern who worked as a pharmacy technician in a community pharmacy in Monterey Park, I was excited to see that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has supported the citizen petition [www.drugtopics.com/letterppsi] submitted to FDA by Pharmacists Planning Service Inc.* requesting that FDA remove St. John’s Wort from “Herbal Dietary Supplement to Behind the Pharmacy Counter status” and to a “Pharmacists-Only Class of Drugs with Mandatory Consultation, Patient History Review, Identification and Registration.”

As a pharmacy technician, I totally agree that without adequate warnings about the possible side effects from St. John’s Wort, patients are vulnerable to over 20 known drug interactions with the product. This poses a danger to public health.

Thank you for calling attention to the fact that herbal and dietary supplements are not completely safe. Calling them "natural products" does not mean that they are harmless or that they should be used without the supervision of a healthcare provider. 

Carol Quach, Pharmacy/MPH student intern

Vallejo, Calif.

[*Full disclosure: Pharmacists Planning Service Inc. is headed by Drug Topics’ Editorial Advisory Board member Fred Mayer, RPh, MPH.]

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