Flu Vaccines Myths Vs Facts and Your Pharmacist

The flu is a serious disease that could be deadly in some cases if the symptoms are not effectively managed. No two flu seasons are the same. Every year the is a mutation in the flu virus thus, it is pertinent for us to get a flu shot yearly during the flu season to avoid getting the flu.

In the United States the flu season starts from early October-May. Anyone can be infected by the flu, not only the immunocompromised. Estimate from the CDC website states, “flu-related hospitalizations since 2010 ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, while flu-related deaths are estimated to have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000”. This number will increase if individuals are not taking Flu vaccines during the flu seasons.

How can you protect yourself from getting the flu?

The only way to protect yourself against the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year as soon as they become available during the flu season  

You can go to your local pharmacy to get a flu shot, no need scheduling an appointment with your physician.

Common and not serious side effects with taking a flu vaccine are :

  •       Nausea
  •       Aches
  •       Redness, swelling and soreness at site of injection.

Serious and less common side effects are:

  •        Swelling around eyes
  •       Difficulty breathing
  •       Hives
  •       Dizziness
  •       High fever

One of the biggest draw backs that people often are mistaken on is that they are subjected to believe that they could get the flu from the flu vaccine. This is a myth and one of the biggest myths that needs to be corrected. The facts state that it is impossible to get the flu from a flu vaccine. This is in part due to the fact that the vaccine contains a strain of the virus that is inactivated which means it is biologically incapable of producing the flu within the body.

Another myth, people often feel as if they do not need a flu vaccine every year because the one they got last year should be sufficient and do the job. The truth behind the matter is that your body’s immunity to the virus becomes weaker each year and a yearly injection of the vaccine keeps your immune system up to date in producing antibodies to fight the illness. Then in addition there is new strains that come out every year and these strains are analyzed and the vaccines vary from year to year. So, each vaccine is different each year and is effective against different strains which you may get.

Some people often feel that the flu vaccine is not useful for them because it was intended for the very young and the elderly generations. This once again is a myth. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that anyone from 6 months of age and on can receive a flu shot. The young and the old may be at an increased risk for catching the general flu but the shot is designed for everyone who wants to avoid the risk of catching it during the general season.

As an individual, you may be concerned that mercury is being used as a preservative within the flu shot vaccines. This is in part true and in part myth. The myth is that mercury is used in all flu shot vaccines. Mercury is only used in multi-dose vials. When an individual goes to a pharmacy or doctor’s office they use the single dose vials which are intended for one time use and do not have mercury in them to preserve it because it will not be stored for a long time.

If you have any questions at all one may seek out their local pharmacist and ask any given questions for clarifications and hopefully become vaccinated. Your pharmacist is one of the most convenient people you have access to that can make a difference in your life. Speak to them and become educated, medicated, and vaccinated. 

Resources

http://www.fffenterprises.com/assets/downloads/FFF_FluFactsMythsFacts.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/2015-16.htm

 

Pharmacists and Their Role in Controlling the Opioid Epidemic

As a member of the healthcare team the pharmacist has an equally important job in deterring this opioid epidemic that is currently wreaking havoc across our country. Many physicians prescribe prescriptions painkillers for patients and they come to the pharmacy; but we are lacking a systematic control method to prevent abuse. For example, in our country it is estimated that 21-29% of people who are prescribed prescription opioids misuse them according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. New federal policies and procedures are making the epidemic a well-known issue and the regulations they are presenting are attempting to reverse years of damage that has already been done.  

One pharmacy has chosen to take a stand which is causing increased awareness due to the limitations it is taking. CVS reported early last week that they will begin to limit opioid prescriptions to a 7-day timeframe with certain restrictions; they are incorporating all of this into a new policy. The policy itself will not take affect till February of 2018 but this is a major topic in the control of opioids. “With a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health.

In addition to the new policy, they will also be increasing the number of drug disposal units in its Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program. This will help patients who are trying to adhere to the new set guidelines and dispose of old or extra medications they may have on hand. In this effort, CVS is working to try and adhere thoroughly to the CDC opioid prescribing guidelines.  

      

Most Opioid abusers use opioid for illicit reasons. As a pharmacist or a student pharmacist working in the pharmacy there are some little things you can do to help prevent this pandemic. By identifying some of the Red Flags of opioid abuse;

  • If a patient comes in and request for a particular brand or specific color of opioid. This should give you a clue that this patient is selling his or her medication.
  • If they use slang terms (street name of the drug)
  • Insist on paying with cash instead of allowing his or her insurance to cover the cost of the drug.
  • If you have new patients form the same prescriber coming to your pharmacy to fill only opioid.
  • Lack of eye contact especially when it is a new patient filling at your pharmacy
  • If the patient is nervous, be sure to know if they are hiding something  
  • Insisting on getting a refill before the actual refill date.
  • Tampering with the prescription.

In conclusion further steps need to be taken in the battle against opioids and this is one major step in the right direction. Pharmacist should attempt to take further action because we are the final check in the process before the patient receives the prescription medication.

Resources:

http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/mtgs/pharm_awareness/conf_2013/march_2013/carter.pdf

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare-Medicaid-Coordination/Fraud-Prevention/MedicaidIntegrityProgram/downloads/drugdiversion.pdf

http://vtdigger.org/2014/02/11/special-report-state-spends-millions-addiction-fighting-drug-diverted-street-sale/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-crisis

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/22/health/cvs-prescription-restrictions-opioids-bn/index.html