The Georgia Pharmacy Association
By Andrew Kantor

December 12, 2017

But we’re the best state for business

The good news is that there are nine states with worse health than Georgia. But yeah, that means Georgia is ranked as the 10th worst state for overall health in the annual America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation.

So what hurt our ranking? “Community and environment,” with the second-worst level of children in poverty, and low rankings for diseases like salmonella and chlamydia.

We didn’t do well for health policy, either — notably our high number of uninsured people (fourth worst in the country) and low funding for public health. And finally there’s “Clinical Care,” where Georgia ranked poorly for the number of children with low birth weight, plus a lack of dentists and primary care physicians. (Details here.)

Massachusetts and Hawai’i* topped the list, and Mississippi and Louisiana were at the bottom. Because we know you were wondering.

* Look at us, being all fancy with the apostrophe. (Actually it’s called an okina.)

Aetna waives co-pay for naloxone

The company announced that its “commercially insured members” would not have to pay a thing to receive the anti-overdose drug. The logic: Co-pays were keeping people from getting it. “According to research from the drug manufacturer, nearly 35 percent of Aetna members prescribed Narcan between January to June 2017 did not pick up their prescription,” the company said. (Not clear: Does this cover both the nasal spray and the injector?)

Considering that in Georgia, patients do not need a prescription for naloxone, this means that someone with Aetna coverage can easily receive some to keep on hand in case a loved one is in danger of overdosing. (See GPhA.org/naloxone for details.)

FDA, Congress, rethinking how OTC drugs are regulated

The agency and Congress (both parties!) are planning an overhaul of the regs.

The issue is that rules for OTC products are created once and never budge — even when new information changes how the prescription version is used.

So, for example, prescription acetaminophen is limited to 325 mg per dose (you know, because of danger to the liver), while you can get it OTC with 500 mg or more.

Per Stat:

The current regulatory process for over-the-counter, or OTC, drugs dates back to 1972, and is based on a simple but flawed assumption that most such products already on the market wouldn’t change much over time […] But the scientific understanding of the products — or the appropriate doses — is constantly evolving.

The Ys have it

As flu season gets into full swing, let us not forget that it brings with it another, potentially worse condition: man flu.

And yes, folks. It’s real.

[T]here’s a plethora of scientific studies out there suggesting that men are not “wimps.” Rather, they may have a weaker immune system that simply makes them respond differently to the illness.

Drug spending growth slows in 2016 … probably

Drug Channels’ Adam Fein says that, in 2016, drug spending didn’t grow nearly as fast as hospital and “professional care” (i.e., physician and clinical services).

Here’s his chart:

(Although, as at least one commenter pointed out, that only took into account outpatient drug spending. It’s not clear how much the increase in hospital spending can be attributed to drugs.)

Help UGA with a naloxone survey

GPhA is partnering with our friends at the UGA College of Pharmacy — we’re trying to get 500 pharmacists to complete a survey on naloxone dispensing and opioid misuse. The goal is to learn more about the issues pharmacists face when dealing with opioid overdose reversal.

The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and it’s completely confidential. Please take the time to answer it — this kind of information can really make a difference!

Which pharma companies are most transparent?

When it comes to releasing clinical trial data, that would be Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, both of which received perfect scores for clinical trial transparency.

Braaaaaaaaak (Achoo)

We love the useful information that crops up on Medical News Today. For example, today’s edition covers both “What are the best ways to make yourself burp?andWhat to know about making yourself sneeze.

You’re welcome.

December 11, 2017

Pharmacist helps GSU student get his insulin

Here’s the story of how a Georgia State University student — who didn’t have health insurance — was finally able to get the insulin he needed to survive without resorting to buying it off Craigslist.

Free samples from a clinic helped tide him over until a pharmacist at the Morehouse School of Medicine helped him qualify for a patient assistance program.

AJC investigation: “Georgia medical board easy on opioid violators”

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

[A]n investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that the arm of state government charged with protecting the public from dangerous doctors — the Georgia Composite Medical Board — rarely yanks the licenses of physicians who behave more like dealers than healers.

Years into the opioid crisis, the Georgia board has taken public action against only a handful of doctors a year for improper opioid prescribing, the AJC found in a review of board actions since 2011. In almost every case, the doctor-dominated board allowed the errant prescribers to keep seeing patients, even if they have recklessly prescribed pain killers or been arrested on drug charges.

U.S. Rep. and pharmacist Buddy Carter weighed in: “I get very frustrated with the Composite Board of Medicine that they’re not doing more to reel in some of these physicians who are obviously out of control,” he said.

North Georgia drive-bys continue this year

Drive-by flu-shots, that is, provided by county health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens, and Whitfield counties.

Municipalities saving money with overseas drugs

Just to be clear, we don’t support what’s happening here, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of it.

Cities, counties, and schools across the country are buying their employees’ drugs from Canada and other countries. The legality is questionable*, but it’s saving local governments millions — and that’s tax dollars we’re talking.

Drug manufacturers try to say that drugs bought internationally aren’t safe, but that claim pretty much gets a collective eye roll; this is Canada, England, and New Zealand we’re talking about — not East No-Where-Land.

From the story:

While the nation grapples with soaring prices of drugs, dozens of cities, counties and school districts across the country have quietly found a solution they say protects their budgets and saves workers money: They are helping their employees buy medicines from pharmacies in Canada and overseas, where prices are up to 80 percent cheaper.

* Stores and pharmacies aren’t allowed to do this, but municipalities have been for decades in some cases. (What, you see a footnote and think it’s gonna be a joke? We can be serious down here too.)

The New York Times discovers clawbacks

Welcome to the party, Old Gray.

Could pharmacists act as healthcare professionals?

So posits Slate, in a piece written by a medical student, “Could Pharmacists Help Fix Health Care?

[A[s costs continue to grow for health care systems here and around the world, pharmacists have become increasingly utilized as direct patient care providers, rather than just as overqualified dispensaries.

The conclusion is an unqualified “Yes” — and that’s a good thing. “The possible rise of pharmacists in American health care, resulting from the CVS-Aetna merger,” he writes, “could ultimately help alleviate primary care shortages across much of our country.”

PCOM opening second Georgia campus

Expected to open in August 2019, it’s going to be training doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOMs) to serve patients in rural communities. It’ll be called PCOM South Georgia. No word yet on whether it will expand its curriculum into pharmacy.

Canola oil might be bad for your brain

Of course it’s too good to be true. Turns out that a diet rich in it might hasten dementia … in mice, anyway. Here’s the AJC’s coverage of the story. Grain of salt, though, folks.

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