The Georgia Pharmacy Association
By Andrew Kantor

November 20, 2017

$540 billion with a B

The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers has calculated the cost of the nation’s opioid epidemic at $504 billion — and that was in 2015. (That’s 2.8 percent of the country’s entire gross domestic product.)

That number takes into account treatment, lost wages, first responders … you get the picture. In other words, it’s money that could be spent on something else.

GPhAers in the news

While you were enjoying your weekend, we were enjoying seeing a couple of* our folks making headlines.

President Liza Chapman was featured on ABC’s WSB Atlanta affiliate, talking about “how pharmacists are stepping up to help with the opioid crisis” (and viewed, we’re told, by about 96,425 people).

Meanwhile, GPhA’s VP of public policy, Greg “Fireball” Reybold, was quoted in the Valdosta Daily Times about the availability of naloxone in Georgia — specifically, that not every pharmacy has it in stock.

“There’s not a huge number of people coming in and looking for this,” he said, but “there’s a huge number of people who could benefit from it.”

* Some people say “a couple of,” some people say “a couple.” Ever noticed?

Purdue to states: Can we talk?

The company would like to settle those opioid lawsuits in one fell swoop. In fact, it’s talking to states that haven’t sued it yet, too, and it’s hired the “Queen of Torts” to help it reach a settlement.

Nothing to see here, folks

Except DEATH — death by the impending bird flu pandemic. Which researchers really don’t want to be alarmist about, so consider it a very quiet scream — like the kind you’d hear from a bird-flu researcher from inside his well-stocked bunker in Iceland.

Pfizer, Nevada are off to court

Nevada prison officials really want to execute some people, and they’re planning to mix some drugs they have on hand — including diazepam and fentanyl — to try to do just that. But Pfizer, which makes those drugs, says, “No way.” It sold the drugs to help prisoners, not for lethal injections.

Nevada, though, is refusing to return the medication: “We are under no obligation, once we’ve made a purchase, to return it.”

Pfizer and most other pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell their products for executions. The United States is the only modern Western nation to still have the death penalty on the books.

The EMA picks a forever home

Amsterdam will be the new, post-Brexit home of the European Medicines Agency.

There might finally be a good use for squirrels

Other than as a side dish, that is. It seems that squirrel brains (such as they are) experience the same lack of blood flow during hibernation that humans experience during a stroke.

Now, a team of NIH-funded scientists has identified a potential drug that could grant the same resilience to the brains of ischemic stroke patients by mimicking the cellular changes that protect the brains of those animals.

November 16, 2017

Some Georgians can get zero-premium health insurance

It comes with a family deductible of $4,500 a year, but it’s a gold-level plan. For those who earn less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, the federal subsidy makes the premium zero.

Downside: For those who make more than 400 percent of the poverty level, there aren’t subsidies to offset the higher premiums that resulted from the administration’s refusing to pay the ACA’s subsidies to insurers.

[M]any lower-income persons [sic] will now have access to health insurance coverage with zero-dollar premiums while middle-income families who don’t qualify for subsidies may be required to pay the equivalent of a second mortgage for the same coverage.

Maybe the ad police are at the doughnut shop

The FDA used to send warnings to drug makers about ads that violated policy or law. This year? Not so much.

The most interesting ‘sprue-like enteropathy’ story you’re likely to read today*

The FDA is being asked to ban olmesartan medoxomil (aka Azor, Benicar, or Tribenzor) because it “is associated with a risk of sprue-like enteropathy (a disorder that mimics celiac disease but does not improve with a gluten-free diet), which can cause significant morbidity in patients and outweighs its benefits in treating hypertension.”

* We could have gone with “The Taming of the Sprue” but that seemed a stretch.

The new blood-pressure guidelines are here!

New for the first time in 10 years, and the threshold’s been lowered. Anything above 120/80 is at least “elevated” if not actual hypertension. (The link is to a lay article. If you want to full report, click here for the 481-page PDF; a little light reading before bedtime, perhaps.)

Nothing to clap about

The first case of a ceftriaxone-resistant strain of gonorrhea has been found in North America — in Quebec, to be precise.

Back to that Allergan-Mohawk deal

Here’s a cool (and fairly short) story about how the Allergan patent deal with the Mohawk Indians came to be.

Most interesting: The lawyer who set it up points out that, if Congress closes the legal loophole he used to set up the deal, he’ll just use the same tactic with underfunded state colleges and universities — and that kind of deal has a bit more protection in the form of the 11th Amendment.

So why isn’t there an Alzheimer’s cure yet?

This article argues there are two main reasons: lack of funding and patent law*; the latter means it’s simply not profitable for a company to spend the money it will take to research a drug — the patent will expire before it has a chance to recoup its investment.

* At least in the U.S.

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