Script Your Future – The Importance of Cholesterol Medications

Script Your FutureCholesterol is a type of fat that is naturally made in our bodies and can be found in various foods. The problem with cholesterol arises when we have too much of it in our blood vessels, causing a plaque to form. This plaque can impede blood flow to the heart leading to a heart attack or stroke. When a person has high cholesterol, whether its elevated LDL, elevated triglycerides, or low HDL, they are often completely unaware of it. High cholesterol often presents without any symptoms, and can be left unnoticed for many years. Fortunately, a simple blood test can determine what your cholesterol level is.

If your doctor tells you that you have high cholesterol, there are a few things you can do to manage this condition. Lifestyle modifications like increasing exercise to at least 30 minutes/day and eating a heart-healthy diet are great ways to get your cholesterol back at goal (total cholesterol <200). If this does not work, however, there are medications you can take to lower your cholesterol. The most popular class of cholesterol medications are referred to as “statins” (i.e. pravastatin, atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, simvastatin, etc.). These medications have proven to be effective in managing cholesterol levels and are used by many patients. Other common cholesterol-lowering drugs include bile acid sequestrants, niacin, fibrates, and omega-3-fatty acids. Although these medication classes work in slightly different ways, they all lower blood cholesterol to some degree.

The problem with these medications is that many people do not “feel” like they are making a difference in their health. This can cause patients to stop taking their cholesterol medications as they are prescribed, or stop taking them all together. It is important for all patients to be educated about how important cholesterol medications are to their health. Even though you may not physically feel any different from taking cholesterol medicine, it could very well be saving your life by preventing plaques from building up in your vessels and causing a heart attack. It is so important to take these medications as directed by your physician, especially for patients with other chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. So take the pledge to take your cholesterol medicine today at http://www.ucwv.edu/pharmacy!

For more information about cholesterol medications visit http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/FreePublications/UCM179918.pdf

Provider Status and Pharmacists: What’s the Connection?

Healthcare delivery in the United States and around the world faces various challenges including increased cost, improving quality, and reduced access. More people have the benefit to receive care and live healthy lives, however, there is a shortage in the number of healthcare professionals available to provide their care. By 2025 there is a projected fall in the availability in the number of physicians in the United States based on the huge gap in the supply and demand in this field. Costs are rising because the few available physicians must work more to accommodate all patients. This creates a unique opportunity for pharmacists to provide care to patients, especially if they receive official national recognition as healthcare providers and given the right to expand the services allowed under their scope of practice.

Per the Department of Health and Human Services, it is projected that there will be about 368,000 active pharmacists in the United States by 2030. By then, the general population will increase in number as well, making the need for healthcare professionals rise even further. Pharmacists are among the most trusted healthcare professionals due to their availability and personal relationships with their patients. However, in the Social Security Act, pharmacists are not formally recognized as healthcare providers. Even though they work in a wide-reaching field ranging from clinical specialties, to community/retail pharmacies, geriatrics, ambulatory care, and industry and research, they have not been given the privilege to be fully accepted as providers, and thus, cannot bill Medicare Part B for their services. This is the reason why all pharmacists must support and advocate for the provider status movement which was initiated in March March 2014.

Another reason why pharmacists should be recognized as providers is their status as health care professionals with extensive, thorough, and specific knowledge about drugs. Pharmacists have increased availability to patients, especially those in rural/underserved areas, and often work extended hours. A patient can walk into a community pharmacy at any time of the day to ask questions regarding any health concerns, medications being taken, or anything pertaining to their health and have a trained professional there to assist them. This means that, at some levels, pharmacists spend more time with their patients than physicians. Pharmacists often see the same patients come to the store everyday just to have conversations, which allows them to become more familiar with the patients and develop personal relationships with them. These relationships create trust between both sides and trust happens to be to the number one value that health care professionals need for their patients to believe that they are receiving the best care possible. Physicians have limited time to spend with their patients, and their encounters are very limited, which is why developing personal relationships and higher levels of trust with their patients is more difficult than that of pharmacists.

It’s easy to see how pharmacists play an important role in providing efficient and high-quality patient care. Pharmacists have vast knowledge regarding drugs, and are valuable for drug therapy management. With the introduction of Point Of Care Testing (POCT), most pharmacists have the ability to provide primary basic care to patients even when visiting local community pharmacies. Therefore, it is necessary for pharmacists to be formally recognized as providers so they can reach their full potential as professionals and help more patients receive the adequate health care they deserve.

Contributed by Koffi Amegadje, NCPA Community Outreach Chair, Class of 2020

Script Your Future: How to Dispose of Unused Medications at Home

The dispensing of prescription medications, especially controlled substances such as narcotics, is tightly regulated by pharmacies and other government agencies. With that being said, there is a lack of oversight on how to discard these medications properly if they go unused. A national survey of United States adults found that nearly half of all patients with pain medication had or expected to have “leftover” medication (1). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 68% of those who use pain medications non-medically got them from friends or family members (2). It is clear to see how keeping unused narcotics increases the chances of unwanted drug diversion.

Fortunately, there are several solutions to combat this problem. Many retail pharmacies now sell drug disposal systems commonly in the form of pouches or bottles. These systems are safe, effective, and convenient ways for patients to get rid of any unused or unwanted prescription medications without flushing them down the drain. Activated charcoal within the pouches or bottles renders the medications inactive when water is added to the container along with the medications. The containers should then be appropriately sealed, and can be thrown away with household trash. Another upside to these disposal systems is their usefulness for various drug formulations (tablets, capsules, liquids, and patches). Below are samples of at-home drug disposal systems that are easily used. Many drug manufacturers will donate these drug disposal systems at no cost, so ask your local pharmacy about them today!

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Delterra Pouches

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Element Drug Disposal System

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Can dissolve 45 pills or 6 oz. liquid or 6 patches

Contributed by: Rebekah Dunham, Class of 2017

References:

  1. Kennedy-Hendricks A, Gielen A, McDonald E, McGinty EE, Shields W, Barry CL. Medication Sharing, Storage, and Disposal Practices for Opioid Medications Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(7):1027-1029. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2543
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville

Pharmacogenetic Testing: Determining What Medications Are Right for You!

Have you ever been prescribed a medication that just did not work for you? Have you ever experienced a negative medication side effect that someone else on the same medication did not?

If yes, you may be able to thank your DNA.

Every human has his/her own, unique set of genetic code. This uniqueness or variation within our genes causes medications to be activated and metabolized differently, causing different effects on the human body. Some of these genetic variations can impact an individual’s response to their medications.

Pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing, usually done with a simple cheek swab, is used by healthcare professionals to determine which genetic variations are predominant within each patient. This information is then used to understand the patient’s response to certain medications. PGx alleviates the need for trial and error in the treatment of patients, and offers a way to strategically target therapies based on an individual’s genetic code.

Employing PGx testing gives healthcare providers the ability to screen medications before initiating therapy. This helps patients avoid drugs they will not even be able to process and/or metabolize well, and instead it provides their provider insight on what medications will work from the beginning. This can help accelerate the benefits from medications, reduce wasted time, reduce expenses for ineffective medications, and possibly even save lives.

References:

  1. Rxight. (2016). Why is PGx Testing Important? Retrieved January 10, 2017, from Rxight: Right Medicine, Right From The Start. http://rxight.com.

    Contributed by: Rebekah Dunham, Class of 2017

Cycling Event Held at UC to Promote Cardiovascular Health

Contributed by Brandon Gray, Class of 2019

Cardiovascular health is an extremely important component of leading a long, enjoyable life. Unfortunately, West Virginia has been inadequate in this category for several years. For example, West Virginia is the third highest state in the country in terms of “Fair and Poor Health Status”, “Physical Inactivity”, and “Obesity” (1). Individuals who do not take care of his/her cardiovascular health can develop cardiovascular disease, which is commonly known as heart disease. When looking at gender, it was shown that heart disease was the cause of death in 22.8% of males and 22.2% of females in 2011(2). However, this can easily be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle, and managing cardiovascular health risks consistently and effectively. Conditions that can lead to heart disease include: atherosclerosis (plaque build-up on the artery walls), heart failure (when the heart is unable to efficiently pump blood to the entire body), and narrowing of the heart valves causing blood flow to be restricted. Keeping a healthy heart will increase one’s life expectancy as well as increase their quality of life.

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Cyclers on UC’s campus!

The UCSOP Student Chapter of The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) held a cycling event to educate the public about the importance of cardiovascular health. Cycling has been shown to bring countless benefits to an individuals heart health, as well as overall health including: strengthening the heart muscles, strengthening bones and muscles, lowering the resting pulse, reducing blood fat levels, reducing body weight, decreasing blood pressure, increasing good cholesterol (HDL), decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL), reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood, etc (3). This event was a great opportunity to show the community how critical it is to have a healthy heart, and what benefits come with cardiovascular health. The cycling event had a wonderful turn out. Several members of the University of Charleston campus and Charleston community attended the event to spread awareness of heart disease and the several life-threatening problems that are associated with it. Every individual that came out and expressed their support and concern, will now be able to educate others about heart disease and how/why it is a growing tragedy in West Virginia. The goal of this event was to educate others on how heart disease can be improved and/or prevented with fun physical activities such as cycling.

References

  1. Fast Facts. (2016). wv.gov. Retrieved 17 October 2016, from http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/hpcd/data_reports/Pages/Fast-Facts.aspx
  2. Frequently Requested Statistics. (2016). org. Retrieved 17 October 2016, from http://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/hsc/Statserv/Stat_Triv.asp
  3. Health Benefits of Cycling | Organic Facts. (2013). Organic Facts. Retrieved 17 October 2016, from https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/other/health-benefits-of-cycling.html
  4. Myers, J. (2003). Exercise and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation, 107(1), e2-e5. Retrieved from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/107/1/e2

Minority Representation & Underserved Patients

Contributed By: Glorisel Cruz, Class of 2018, SNPhA Vice President

The Student National Pharmaceutical Association (SNPhA) was founded in 1972.1 SNPhA’s mission is to bring pharmacy students together “who are concerned about pharmacy and healthcare related issues, and the poor minority representation in pharmacy and other health-related professions.”1 But why is it so important to focus on minority representation and the underserved in our health care system? It is estimated that “by 2020 more than half of the nation’s children will be of an ethnic or racial minority; by 2050, African American/Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians will comprise the majority of the population.”2 With this comes the inevitable question of whether our pharmacy profession is equipped to meet their health care needs.

Most pharmacy students mention helping people as one of the main reasons they aspire to be a pharmacist. Part of a pharmacy schools’ job is to help their students be competent in helping everyone, underserved or not. One of the ways pharmacy school helps students achieve this is by having “diversity in faculty and staff members and curriculum [to help] foster a culturally competent and diverse student population, which in turn impacts the quality of care provided to patients.”2 The problem is that having diverse faculty and staff members may not be as easy. Angela Hagan and colleagues compared racial and ethnic representation in pharmacy schools’ staff in comparison with the US Census Bureau data in their article The Racial and Ethnic Representation of Faculty in US Pharmacy Schools and Colleges. 2 They found that “Asian faculty representation was more than double in pharmacy than in higher education.” 2 It wasn’t the same for the other minorities and their representation in the pharmacy faculty. According to the same article, when compared to medical and dental schools, there was a higher representation of African Americans/Black faculty. 2 The program that had a better representation of Hispanic faculty was the dental program when compared to other programs. 2 Having diverse representation among the faculty of pharmacy schools can help “staff and other service providers have the requisite attitudes, knowledge, and skills for delivering culturally competent care.” 3 Therefore, having diverse faculty in pharmacy programs should be one of the main goals of a school.

Underserved populations also include those with low-economic status, “patients with medical disabilities or chronic illness,” those who are “confined to long-term care facilities,” “patients with limited literacy,” and anyone who lives in “geographically isolated or medically underserved areas.”4 Around 62 million people in the United States are part of the underserved population. 5 For example, West Virginia, alone, has 49 counties out of a total of 55 counties, which are considered underserved. 5 There are different methods that West Virginia has implemented to help its people, such as free clinics. 5 Pharmacists have a major role in helping underserved patients get better health care. SNPhA members, along with many other organizations, are helping by setting up health fairs which provide free services to underserved patients, such as blood pressure and blood glucose screenings, A1c testing, and various educational programs

References:

  1. About – SNPhA. Accessed: November 25, 2016. https://snpha.org/about/
  2. Hagan AM, Campbell HE, Gaither CA. The Racial and Ethnic Representation of Faculty in US Pharmacy Schools and Colleges. Am J Pharm Educ. 2016;80(6).
  3. Missing Persons: Minorities in the Health Professions. The Sullivan Commission. 2004:1-208. Accessed: November 24, 2016. http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/SullivanReport.pdf.
  4. Dental Pipeline: Who Are “Underserved Patients”? Accessed: November 25, 2016.http://www.dentalpipeline.org/elements/community-based/pe_underserved.html
  5. Mallow JA, Theeke LA, Long DM, Whetsel T, Theeke E, Mallow BK. Study protocol: mobile improvement of self-management ability through rural technology (mI SMART). Springerplus. 2015;4(1):423. doi:10.1186/s40064-015-1209-y.

The National Opioid Epidemic and Pharmacist’s Role in Drug Diversion

An epidemic is ravaging our country and the ways in which we, as pharmacists and healthcare providers, can aid in the fight that is the “Opioid Crisis” are numerous. Take our beloved state of West Virginia for instance, where there have been 33.5 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents from 2011-13 compared to 22 per 100,000 residents in the years preceding. (1) “Wyoming, McDowell, Boone and Mingo [counties] lead the nation in fatal overdoses caused by pain pills, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” (2) Over the past 6 years drug wholesalers have shipped nearly 800 million oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets drawing the attention of both the DEA and the state government. One of the nation’s largest wholesalers, Cardinal, agreed to pay over $40 million in fines to settle allegations of failure to report suspicious purchasing patterns for opioids. (3) You may find yourself asking what can I, a pharmacist, do to help?

First and foremost, counseling our patients on their medications and informing them of the potential risk of abuse is a great first step. It is important to get to know our patients and their situation so we can make sure the medications are used responsibly. Remind patients that medication is not to be shared with friends or family under any circumstances without the consult and consent of their health care provider. Inquire of your patient(s) whether the medication is working to alleviate symptoms and offer additional ways to help manage pain such as exercise, meditation, or even yoga. If needed, refer them to additional resources such as their doctor or other healthcare providers.

Secondly, inform patients about overdose protocol and the availability of lifesaving drugs such as naloxone (Narcan). Police and paramedics, who are usually the first responders to overdose victims, are also carrying naloxone to help curb loss of life. Educate individuals on the proper use of naloxone to reverse an overdose whether it accidental or intentional and where to purchase an emergency dose. Naloxone is now available by physician protocol at your local pharmacies in many states, including WV. It is imperative to instruct those who purchase naloxone that after administering a dose they must go to the hospital immediately because the effects will wear off and the victim will require hospital attention.

DEA 360 Strategy Meeting in the UC Ballroom!

DEA 360 Strategy Meeting in the UC Ballroom!

Pharmacists also have a responsibility to be proactive in this “Opioid Crisis” and become advocates for change in our communities. Reaching out to our state Senate and House of Representatives to promote new legislation and initiatives to curb this wave of abuse is another great step. On Wednesday January 25th 2017, DEA representatives came to the University of Charleston to host a stakeholders strategy meeting that focused on providing support for West Virginia for heroin and opioid use, and violence in our community. US Attorney Caroline Mastro has approved $500,000 for the trial portion of a program to diversify ways to help out this crisis. The DEA speakers addressed the present dismissive attitudes surrounding the subject and called out to leaders to unite with the common goal of fighting addiction in this state.

These patients are not the enemy but a casualty to what has historically been labeled a victimless crime. So the next time someone comes in a day early to fill their script or the doctor ups their dose don’t just shove them out the door replying, “it is too soon to fill” or “we don’t have any in stock.” Have a conversation with the patient to make sure they are aware that help is out there if they are ready to start their journey to recovery. Those who are abusing pain medications may be doing so in order to mask the pain of another situation and your conversation may spark the road to recovery! Please join us in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

References:

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3128229/West-Virginia-rate-drug-overdose-deaths.html
  2. http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2016/12/19/report-dea-records-show-west-virginia-flooded-with-drugs.html
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cardinal-health-fined-44-million-for-opioid-reporting-violations/2017/01/11/4f217c44-d82c-11e6-9a36-1d296534b31e_story.html?utm_term=.d248d375b1fa

 

CPFI & ACCP Join Together for Trunk-or-Treat Event

Christian Pharmacist Fellowship International (CPFI) and American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) participated in the Trunk-or-Treat event at the Kroger in South Charleston on October 29th for American Pharmacist Month. The overarching theme of this event was the promotion of The Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched as a national campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) in 2014.

FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project

FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project

FARE’s mission is to “improve the quality of life and health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments.” The idea of this project is to allow every child (with or without food allergies) to experience the tradition of trick-or-treating on Halloween, but in a safe way. At these events only non-food treats are offered such as glow sticks or small toys. In 2015, households from all 50 states and 14 countries participated. To take part in your home next Halloween—just place a teal pumpkin at your doorstep and FARE provides free printable signs to explain the meaning.

At this event, CPFI’s trunk theme was football, while ACCP decided to be superheroes. We provided the children glow sticks, fake insects, plastic jewels, and “Mr. Yuk” stickers. The “Mr. Yuk” stickers allowed us to explain to parents that it’s important to keep dangerous household (cleaning supplies, medications, insect repellants, etc) items away from their children. An easy way to do this is by placing a “Mr. Yuk” sticker on those items to alert the child that it is unsafe. As kids came to our trunk, we played beanbag toss, bowling, and other fun games. A member of CPFI also made a poster for American Pharmacist Month and this helped us to explain why UC students were participating in this trunk-or-treat.

CPFI & ACCP Students at the Trunk-or-Treat event.

CPFI & ACCP Students at the Trunk-or-Treat event.

The poster opened up conversation about the importance of recognizing food allergies and how pharmacists can play a role in their allergy management. Those with food allergies are not only affected by what they can or cannot eat, but they must also be cautious about what medications they take as well. Although many people are unaware, some medications are made from food-sources. Examples of some medications made with foods include: inhalers made with peanuts and flu shots made with eggs. It is important to mention all allergies to doctors and/or pharmacists to avoid any dangerous reactions.

Over 200 kids came to the event and we were able to talk to many of their parents about household and medication safety. With this being such a success, we hope to continue participating and make this an annual CPFI tradition.

For more information about FARE’s project, you can visit foodallegy.org/teal-pumpkin-project.

Contributed by Sydney Sowell, CPFI Secretary, Class of 2019

UCSOP Is Going Red For Women

Welcome to February 2017…. or shall we say Welcome to American Heart Month!

This means that here at UCSOP we are preparing for a month full of exciting and educational events geared towards cardiovascular health. With Script Your Future happening in full-force, what better way to expand our reach than to incorporate Go Red For Women into our message? UCSOP students and faculty are dedicated to promoting heart health among all persons and encourage everyone to take their medications as they are prescribed!Go Red For Women

Go Red For Women is a campaign that was established by the American Heart Association in response to increased heart disease and strokes among women. This campaign encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease, and also promotes action to save more lives. Go Red For Women challenges women to “know their numbers” or know their risk factors for getting heart disease, and also gives participants the tools they need to live a heart healthy life. Cardiovascular disease has numerous risk factors, but thankfully, many of them can be controlled via medications and/or lifestyle changes. Things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and elevated blood glucose all play a part in heart disease. This is why it is so important for women and men with these chronic diseases to take their medications as directed.

At UCSOP we will be participating in “Go Red for Women Day” on February 3rd, for which we encourage our students, faculty and staff to dress in red to support the cause! Our student organizations will also be hosting a variety of health fairs and tweet-a-thons promoting Go Red For Women.  Furthermore, we will continue to promote medication adherence as it fits in with cardiovascular health through our Script Your Future events. Stay tuned to our blog and other social media for updates on events regarding these causes!

UCSOP Hosts DEA 360 Strategy Meeting

Exciting things are happening at UCSOP, in the Charleston community, and around the state of West Virginia! On January 25, 2017, UCSOP hosted the DEA 360 Strategy Meeting for Charleston, WV. This meeting served as the kick-off event in the 6th city for this nationwide initiative. The DEA 360 program focuses on heroin, prescription drugs, and violence within our communities. screen-shot-2017-02-02-at-2-04-33-pm

DEA 360 utilizes a three-fold approach to fight the drug epidemic in its pilot cities. This approach focuses on diversion control, law enforcement, and community outreach working together to make our cities safe and free of drugs! The ultimate goals of the 360 Strategy are to stop the deadly cycle of heroin and opioid drug abuse and addiction, partner with the medical community to increase awareness about the link between heroin and opioid use, and to strengthen community organizations to provide long-term support for this initiative.The basic components of the strategy are outlined below:

  • Coordinated Law Enforcement Operations: Focuses on DEA leadership with coordinated local law enforcement actions targeting all levels of drug trafficking, organizations, and violent gangs supplying drugs in our neighborhoods.
  • Enhanced Diversion Control: Increases engagement from drug manufacturers, wholesalers, practitioners, and pharmacists to increase awareness of the heroin and prescription drug problem. Pushes for responsible prescribing practices and safe use of these medications throughout the medical community.
  • Building Community Partnerships:  Community outreach and partnerships with local organizations following DEA enforcement actions to equip and empower communities with the tools to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. Focuses on young people through after school programs, education, and media attention to this issue.

Overall, 200+ people from DEA (both local divisions and DEA Headquarters in Washington DC), community groups and organizations in Charleston, along with UCSOP faculty, staff, and student pharmacists attended the meeting! Be on the lookout for local television and radio adds about the program as well as a website designed specifically for our Charleston community. It’s time to “Wake Up Charleston”!

UCSOP Faculty and Students host a luncheon for DEA representatives after the meeting!

UCSOP Faculty and Students host a luncheon for DEA representatives after the meeting!