82 posts categorized "Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Business"

03/29/2017

21st Century Cures Act – Promises or Problematic?

Late last year a new healthcare act was passed.  The 21st Century Cures Act has been lauded by many on both sides as a compromise that would help many sick individuals. The 21st Century Cures Act promised to bolster new cures and create faster regulatory processes that would help the nation get promising innovative cures to those who need them.   The basis of these claims is that the nation’s current set-up slows down innovation by asking for randomized control trials (RCTs) and spending too little on finding new cures. While these claims seem true on the surface, many criticize the new healthcare act for its incentives for pharmaceutical companies.  Personally, I have a saying that goes “A good compromise will probably leave both sides unhappy.”  So when an act passes with as much praise and speed as the new act did, I cannot help but wonder if the disadvantages would outweigh the advantages.  For this reason,  I will analyze the act’s contents to determine strengths and weaknesses of the act, then make an informed conclusion as to whether it is a net positive or negative.

The positives of the 21st Century Cures Act are numerous.  The biggest benefit for society  would have to be funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH).  The NIH is an invaluable part  of research funding in the nation.   Since the NIH does a large portion of its research through grants, organizations can more efficiently allocate money given to them in ways that benefit their research.  That established,  the new act has secured over 4 billion dollars for the NIH over the next 10 years.  The NIH is probably the single greatest driver of innovation owing to the intrinsic costs of pathophysiologic research.  The fact is that pharmaceutical companies can make no guarantee that the research to discover the pathophysiology of a disease will yield them any wealth.  It is actually a well-known fact that as much as $3 billion can be invested in new drug discovery research and no new drug may be approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).  This is because the complexities of biology prevent researchers from always knowing the effect of changes they make.  In essence, intended benefits and side-effects generally do not yield actual benefits and side-effects.  So, funding the NIH to do the burden of such research frees pharmaceutical companies to aim more money on specific treatments. This will make it cheaper to find cures for disease with few or no treatments and expand the treatments already in existence.

One of the major concessions of the act, from a safety stand point, is that the 21st Century Cures Act has eroded the FDA’s strength to determine the value of new cures.  The problem with the act comes in the degradation of the data that is being given to the FDA.  It is no secret that RCTs are regarded as incredibly valuable data.  This owes to the fact that personal experience is subject to many external factors including one’s own biology.  The bigger issue with the new law and the FDA is “real-world experience.”  From a scientific standpoint, RCTs are “ideal-world experience”.  RCT’s do not give perfect data of all the flaws of a drug, they set a relatively high bar that allows the FDA to make reasonable assumptions about the safety of a drug.  By moving over to “real world experiences”, more side-effects could be missed.  This is important because many drugs carry risks that are not discovered until years after they have been in the market.  Considering that it takes 12 years to get a black box warning on a medication and 5 to get it removed, the negative implications of rapid approval start to become more worrying.   Without expediting the process of getting black box warnings added or getting drugs removed from the market, it becomes worrying that many new drugs are being added to the market. 

The 21st Century Cures Act’s most worrying aspect is that it could lead to many dangerous drugs coming to market, without novel drugs that may help ever seeing the light of day.  The FDA was created at a time when dangerous substances with little or no medical value were being peddled as cures.  The act could end up creating more overall problems caused by an expansion of medications known as me-too drugs.  To be fair, me-too drugs do come with benefits.  In the statin class, many me-too drugs currently exist for the sole purpose of competing with other drugs in that class.  Because the market, dyslipidemia, is so large even a small percentage can be worth billions over a decade.  If one can make an improvement in this class then the benefits are net positive.  Me-too drugs can also increase economic output via creating a need for advertising, production and other media.  Another noteworthy advantage is that it could lead to drugs that are not as potent as a competitor getting priced more cheaply to undercut the competition.  The problem is that, it could also jeopardize patient safety by adding many new drugs with too little information on them.  The lack of information could lead to inappropriate use creating harm or death.  For example, 81 mg aspirin is no longer sold under the therapeutic label of “baby aspirin”.  This is because it was noted that 81 mg aspirin could cause Reye’s syndrome in children with viral infections.   Adults are not subject to this same deadly adverse effect, and with the existence of other drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, it was decided that aspirin would no longer be used in children.  Since even well-known drugs can have interactions that are not well known for years, adding more medications with less data could have effects that will not bode well in time for society.  While adding new classes of drugs can hold many of the same negatives, it also gives a unique form of treatment.  In the long run, new drug classes could potentially be used in conjunction with existing therapy.  In this way, the funding for new drugs comes off as dubious.

In summation, while the 21st Century Cures Act was a well-intentioned idea, its overall likelihood for net negative healthcare is high.  The positives are noteworthy.  We will see more drugs enter the market.  This will almost assuredly increase the number of jobs and boost the economy in general.  New cures will help patients and lead to instances of better outcomes.  At the same time a rational person can look at the situation and say that the possibility for negatives does exist.  Adding 1 or two more high intensity statins could help the healthcare industry, but if a patient is statin intolerant then 20 new cure does not help.  Also, those who are already doing well on a statin but might need an additional medication will not benefit from this new act.  Adding more problems is the lack of data that is compounding this problem.  In the healthcare industry, mistakes can be life altering or threatening.  Adding more potential cures without sufficient data to assess them is not a good idea.  In this respect, the 21st Century Cures Act is problematic legislation that will not help patient healthcare as much as it was promised to do.

Adekunle O. Adejare, PharmD Candidate – ‘19

10/25/2016

More Faculty, Staff, Student and Alumni Achievements

Karin Richards, chair of the department of kinesiology, presented at the Regional Conference on Aging on the topic Calm Minds, Active Bodies.

She will also be presenting at on “Applying Behavior Change Techniques” at a workshop in Richmond Virginia.

Richards was also selected as a master trainer by the American Council on Exercise for applying behavior change techniques


 Paula Kramer PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, director of the post-professional doctor of occupational therapy program, has been invited to give the keynote address for the New York State Occupational Therapy Association conference on November 5.


 Dorela Priftanji PharmD’17 was awarded the Pennsylvania Society of Health System Pharmacists Student of the Year Award at the annual assembly.


 Several faculty members and former colleagues were published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Vol. 80, Issue 7. “Variables Affecting Pharmacy Students’ Patient Care Interventions during Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences” was a collaborative effort of Laura Bio PharmD, Brandon Patterson PharmD, PhD, Shanta Sen PharmD, Angela Bingham PharmD, Jane Bowen PharmD, Ben Ereshefsky PharmD, and Laura Siemianowski PharmD.


Jim Holaska PhD, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, recently published two articles listed below. One of the articles was a comprehensive review of diseases associated with mutations in nuclear envelope proteins and the proposed disease mechanisms. The second review focused on the cellular function of one of these proteins named emerin and how mutations in this protein cause muscle disease.

  1. Holaska, J. M. 2016. Diseases of the Nucleoskeleton. Comprehensive Physiology. 6:1655–1674.
  2. Collins, C. M., Nee, K. A. and Holaska, J. M. 2016. The Nuclear Envelope Protein Emerin and Its Interacting Proteins. eLS. 1–9.

Jessica Adams PharmD, assistant professor of clinical pharmacy, attended the 6th Clinical Pharmacy Summit in Manila, Philippines Sept 16-18th as faculty for ACCP. She presented on HIV, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, opportunistic and fungal infections, and intra-abdominal infections to a group of pharmacists from the Philippine Pharmacists Association who are preparing to take the BCPS exam.


Amy Jessop PhD, MPH, associate professor of health policy and public health, and a recent grad, Muhamed Gashat MPH ’16 penned a paper entitled "Barriers to HCV Treatment in Methadone Users" was highlighted on the National Aids Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP.ORG).


 Evana Patel PhB'16 won best paper in her session at the Academy of Business Research Fall 2016 Conference in Atlantic City

05/05/2016

The European Biosimilars Market

In previous blogs, I have written about what biosimilars are and have speculated about the development of the US biosimilars industry. While the US biosimilars market may not fully mature for another decade, the European biosimilars market has been expanding for years. In this blog, I will analyze what the European biosimilars market looks like and whether it is a preview of the US biosimilars market.

The biosimilars market in Europe has existed now for over a decade. The first approved biosimilar was a somatotropin in 2006. Since then, Europe has seen 22 biosimilars emerge in several different drug classes (more information available here). With all the potential savings that biosimilars offer, 22 products may seem like a small number to be developed over a decade. Similar to the US, a barrier for biosimilars in Europe is the development pathway. The European Medicines Agency (EMA)which operates similarly to the FDA, provides the legal pathway for biosimilars. Unlike the FDA however, the EMA has made many different product specific guidelines which may be hindering the adoption of biosimilars. Additionally, the EMA does not provide pricing or reimbursement guidelines. This responsibility instead falls to each individual member state. Some member states like Germany and the UK have made pricing policies favorable to biosimilars. Germany has prescribing quotas and the UK has reimbursements for physicians. Others, like Italy and France, have policies that are less favorable in the form of universal price regulation. This regulation does not offer any incentive for the adoption of biosimilars. This mesh of product specific legal guidelines and member state specific pricing policies has slowed the biosimilars market in Europe.

Despite these challenges, biosimilars still offer great savings in Europe. Biosimilars can be as low as 30% less expensive than the European reference products. Even with the slow adoption, some reports show that biosimilars could save Europe as much as $33 billion by the year 2020. At first glance, it seems as though these savings would create an environment where all European member states would mimic the UK and Germany and embrace biosimilars. One might expect that over the next decade, biosimilar policy and use across Europe will look almost identical. History, however reveals that this may not be the case. It is no secret that biosimilars can bring savings to the health care, so countries that have not already adopted them are not guaranteed to adopt them in the future. What is likely is that biosimilars will continue to bring savings, but only to the handful of member states adopting favorable policies.

The European biosimilar experience is unlikely to be repeated in the US. The FDA may end up with a less cumbersome development pathway than Europe which could then lead to more rapid adoption. Individual states will also not have the same policy and reimbursement variability as European member states. In other words, policies in Pennsylvania will look similar to those in New York, while policies in the UK will continue vary greatly from policies in Italy. With that being said, the US biosimilars market will still be unpredictable. All Europe teaches us is that despite unique road blocks, biosimilars can still bring large saving to health care systems who accommodate them.

Robert Bond, PharmD '18

03/01/2016

Can technology stop drug prices from rising?

There has been a well-documented trend toward higher drug prices in the US. Turing Pharma turned heads by raising the price of Daraprim® by 5,000 percent, and there has been more news coverage of the practice of hiking drug prices. At the same time, new technologies and group purchasing power are being harnessed to counteract this trend. These two competing forces will help shape the ongoing debate on drug pricing.

In early February 2016, Blink Health announced the launch of its mobile app and website, purposed to help consumers secure the lowest possible retail price. Blink is not a retail pharmacy, but it works with MedImpact, a pharmacy benefits management company affiliated with 60,000 pharmacy locations. Users can supposedly get better prices on generics, because Blink can use its group purchasing power to negotiate lower prices. The app and website quote a price, which the user pays prior to going to the pharmacy. He/she still must provide a prescription to the retail pharmacy, but the price is secured for any of the affiliated locations.

Blink claims that users can save 80% on generics; that 40% of its medications cost less than $5; and, that 50% of its medications cost less than $10. The company claims that higher prices cause patients to skip doses and to stop the regimen entirely. They claim that their tool will help increase access to medications through lower prices.

Navigating drug pricing is notoriously labyrinthine. Most retailers do not post their prices and prices vary for different consumers and consumer types within the same market. Lisa Gill, deputy editor of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs is quoted by the NY Times saying, “The prices are all over the map, even within the same ZIP code.”

Since 2006, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has been providing certain generics for $4 for a 30 day prescription. The company maintains a list of drugs that it provides at that price. The company provides this price by using its purchasing power, and by taking advantage of its distribution system. There are other programs, such as GoodRX, that aim to provide patients the lowest possible prices on generics. GoodRX is similar to Blink Health, but it provides coupons to be used at the retail site. Blink allows patients to pay for the drug prior to picking it up at one of the affiliated pharmacies.

Brand name drugs fall outside of the scope of these programs. In addition, generic drugs like Daraprim®, which is a sole-source product, will not likely be affected by these and similar price control programs. However, Wal-Mart, Blink, GoodRX and others are applying downward price pressure to the market for generic drugs. Whether this is sufficient to keep prices under control, overall, is yet to be seen. The companies leverage technology to secure lower prices. Consumers demand lower prices, and these services will survive and profit if they provide value to consumers. The prices they offer are closer to the prices paid by insurers.

High drug prices can have a deleterious effect on patient behavior. As Blink Health has claimed, higher prices often discourage patients from filling out prescriptions and often push them to skip doses. Tools that help patients secure drugs at lower prices, even if only in retail settings, should have a positive effect. A case can be made that these tools address only the symptom of higher prices and not the causes. Factors that drive up prices may be ignored, since these tools provide lower prices as an end result. Drug companies can refuse to address higher prices by pointing to these tools as proof that their drugs are ultimately affordable.

The ongoing drug price debate, fueled by Turing’s move and others, highlights the high cost of prescription medications. The new tools take advantage of the information gap between consumer and producers. They do provide a valuable service, although the debate continues. Should there be price controls on critical drugs? Should the US move to a single buyer system, as is the case in Canada and European countries? If so, Blink, GoodRX, and other similar businesses will be impacted, since they would be unable to provide lower prices than that set by the government.

Magdi Stino, Health Policy PhD Candidate

02/15/2016

Turing Pharma and the drug price debate

In September 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim® (pyrimethamine) from $13.50 per tablet to $750.    The 5,000 % price increase put the national spotlight on the practice of rising drug prices, including for generics such as Daraprim, which is used to treat toxoplasmosis infections.  The company’s CEO, Martin Shkreli, has been vilified in the press and in social media, which has kept the subject in the public consciousness.  The price hike by Turing, which had only acquired the drug that August, was seen by many as price gouging.  Shkreli’s action has heightened scrutiny of drug pricing policies, and raised public awareness of the arbitrariness of pricing in the US market.

Shkreli defended the move, contending that the higher profitability means more funding will be available for toxoplasmosis research.  If the market size is limited, then profitability would come through higher margins.  The higher margins, Shkreli’s camp argues, compel manufacturers to produce enough of the drug to meet demand.  No one who needed the drug has been unable to get it due to price, the company has claimed, and Turing provides support for those who are unable to afford it.

Turing also argues that it has been singled out for media attention for the practice of acquiring a drug and raising its price.  Older drugs, such as Cycloserine®, a tuberculosis drug, and Doxycycline®, an antibiotic, have had their prices raised after acquisition.  Valeant purchased Isuprel® and Nitropress® and subsequently raised the price for both.  CBS News reported that a Bloomberg News study found that 20 prescription medications have had their prices quadrupled since 2014, and 60 drugs have had their drug prices at least doubled.  The same study found that Novum Pharma raised the price of two anti-inflammatory steroids, Alcortin A® and Novacort®, by 2,000 and 3,000 percent respectively during that period.  In this light, Turing’s move was not completely out of the norm.

Critics counter that such dramatic price increases are dangerous.  The Infection Disease Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HMA) sent a letter to Turing warning that the practice was “unsustainable for the health care system”  and posed a risk to public health.  Social media has lambasted Shkreli for exploiting people with serious illnesses for the sake of profitability.  Shkreli, his critics contend, is behaving more like a hedge fund manager than as a steward of the public health.

Since this story broke, more attention has been given to the practice of hiking drug prices such as at Gilead.  The company is facing scrutiny for the cost of two hepatitis C medications, Sovaldi® and Harvoni®, which cost $84,000 and $94,500 respectively for each regimen.  The attorney general of Massachussetts wrote a letter to Gilead,  saying she was looking at whether drugs are overpriced, and whether to invoke consumer protection laws in that effort, which would be a first.   Pfizer has faced criticism for hiking the prices of 100 drugs in the beginning of January 2016 and its planned merger with Allergan has emerged as an issue for Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Truveris, a research firm, found that drug prices had gone up by 10.4% since 2014, and that brand names have gone up by fifteen percent.

While Shkreli and Turing’s move was jarring, the public now knows that price increase are not extraordinary.  New specialty drugs entering the approved drug market are further driving up prices.  BY contributing to higher healthcare costs, price increases for existing drugs reduce the apparent effectiveness of health care spending. Prescription drugs make up a substantial portion of US national healthcare costs, which are highest in the world.   The price increases lead to higher insurance payments and copays.

An investigation has been opened by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, released memos from a preliminary investigation which appeared to show that the price moves by Turing were purely for increasing profits, and that R&D costs were minimal.  Shkreli testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on February 4, 2016, where he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate.

Shkreli was arrested in December 2015 for allegations of securities fraud prior to his takeover of Turing and has continued to draw public notoriety for his actions.  He has, through his public defiance, caused the discussion to persist.  It is notable that national vilification of Shkreli has contributed to the debate, demonstrating that personalities can impact policy as much as raw numbers.

Affordable medications are a crucial part of public health.  Likewise, the profit motive provides an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to produce sufficient quantities of a particular drug.  In the current system, a balance is needed.  Turing’s price hike of Daraprim has heightened the scrutiny of a perceived imbalance towards profitability and away from affordability.  With drug prices entering the presidential elections, it is likely that pricing will continue to be a major political issue.

Magdi Stino, PhD Candidate, Health Policy

10/20/2015

Daraprim – The Ultimate Drug Pricing Outrage?

Drug priceBy Dr. Daniel A. Hussar, the Remington Professor of Pharmacy at University of the Sciences' Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He serves as the author and editor of The Pharmacist Activist newsletter from which this editorial was taken.

Pyrimethamine (Daraprim) was initially approved in the United States in 1953 for the treatment of patients with malaria. It was subsequently determined to be of value in the treatment of toxoplasmosis, a relatively uncommon but sometimes fatal parasitic infection for which patients with compromised immune systems (e.g., patients with AIDS) are at greatest risk. Pyrimethamine is a component of the regimen that has been considered to be the most effective treatment for toxoplasmosis.

Pyrimethamine was originally developed and marketed by the Burroughs Wellcome Company (subsequently acquired by the company now known as GlaxoSmithKline). Following expiration of its patent, the product and its trade name Daraprim have been acquired and marketed by several other companies. Generic formulations of the drug have either been unavailable or available on only a limited basis because the drug is used so infrequently that generic companies have not considered it commercially feasible to market. As recently as 5 years ago, the cost of Daraprim was about $1 a tablet. The US marketing rights to the drug in the United States were sold by GlaxoSmithKline in 2010, and the rights to the drug have been sold several additional times during the last five years. In the period preceding August, 2015 Daraprim was marketed by Impax Laboratories at a cost of $13.50 a tablet.

Turing Pharmaceuticals

In August, 2015 Impax sold Daraprim to Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shortly prior to that time Impax discontinued distributing the drug through the traditional pharmacy system and restricted its availability to a controlled distribution system, resulting in only very limited supplies of the drug remaining available in general distribution.

The CEO of Turing is a former hedge fund manager and a former CEO of a small pharmaceutical company (Retrophin), another company that acquired an older infrequently prescribed drug (tiopronin [Thiola] for the prevention of cystine kidney stones) that was not available from other sources, and then markedly increased its price.

Following its purchase of Daraprim in what has been described in commentaries as an "overnight" price increase, Turing raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. The company and its CEO initially attempted to justify the price increase by describing it as a great business decision that would be of benefit for all of its stakeholders. The previous price was identified as unprofitable and the drug was portrayed as being so infrequently prescribed that the impact of the price increase would be minuscule. The Turing CEO was quoted as saying, "This isn't the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business" (New York Times, September 20).

Outrage!

Daraprim is not the first drug for which the availability of an older drug has been limited/restricted/controlled with a resultant sharp increase in its price. Examples include tiopronin, doxycycline, cycloserine, isoproterenol, repository corticotropin injection (H.P. Acthar Gel), and hydroxyprogesterone caproate (Makena). However, the outrage regarding the Daraprim price increase from patients, health professionals, legislators, Presidential candidates, and the public has been immediate and intense. This response is certainly due, in large part, to the huge amount of the price increase, profit being the single motivation for the increase, and the arrogance of the company and its CEO in attempting to justify the increase. This situation has also occurred during a time period in which numerous concerns have been voiced about the prices of many drugs, including important drugs for chronic hepatitis C infection, cholesterol-regulating drugs with a unique mechanism of action, and many anticancer drugs.

The Daraprim experience has become a "lightning rod" that has galvanized attention to all examples and reasons for which many have concerns about drug prices. It has to be the worst nightmare for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) that represent the interests of the pharmaceutical companies, and are very concerned that their member companies' motives and actions might be considered to be similar to those demonstrated by Turing. BIO issued the following statement in response to the Daraprim situation:


"Turing Pharmaceuticals was a member of BIO for a brief period of time and is currently no longer a member. The company and its leadership do not reflect the commitment to innovation and values that are at the core of BIO's reputation and mission. For that reason, BIO determined, after a review of Turing's membership status, that the company did not meet our eligibility criteria, and we took action to rescind its membership and return its membership dues."

I commend BIO for taking this action. However, an evaluation of "the commitment to innovation and values" of certain other companies is also warranted. Although the price increase and statements from Turing may be the most blatant and arrogant to date, some other companies are also engaged in similar practices that are motivated only by the anticipation of large profits.

The storm of criticism and anger regarding the price increase for Daraprim resulted in an announcement from Turing several days later that it would lower the price although, at the time this is being written, the reduced price had not yet been identified. Turing also attempted to convey a message that the higher price was needed to fund research regarding toxoplasmosis and the development of educational programs and new drugs from which patients would benefit. It also indicated that the medication would be provided to patients with financial need. However, its singular motivation for high profits had already been exposed, and its belated attempt to claim it was interested in patients only further eroded its credibility.

A better outcome

The antitubercular drug cycloserine was developed in the 1950s but is seldom used in current therapy. However, it is of value in the treatment of patients with potentially life-threatening multi-drug resistant tuberculosis that is resistant to conventional antitubercular regimens. Cycloserine capsules have been supplied by The Chao Center, a nonprofit organization that is part of the Purdue Research Foundation, at a cost of $480 for 30 capsules. It recently sold the product to Rodelis Therapeutics. When it was learned that Rodelis planned to increase the price of cycloserine to $10,800 for 30 capsules, Chao requested that the rights to the drug be returned. The two companies agreed that the sale of the drug would be canceled and the rights to the drug were returned to Chao. Although Chao considers it necessary to raise the price to approximately $1,050 for 30 capsules, this is only about one-tenth of the price Rodelis had planned to charge.

Other options

The Daraprim experience represents an abuse of the drug distribution system and undermining of its already fragile financial viability. These situations must not be tolerated. One strategy is to have the company that initially obtained approval for the drug or a generic pharmaceutical company supply the drug at a low profit margin. The situation described above in which cycloserine is supplied by a nonprofit organization is a variation of this approach.

Another option is to have compounding pharmacists obtain the medication and prepare the appropriate dosage forms. Although there are restrictions with respect to pharmacists compounding formulations that are commercially available, this situation needs to be reconsidered and exceptions to the restrictions explored.

Another option is to obtain certain medications from a Canadian pharmacy. I have not been an advocate for US residents obtaining medications from Canada and other countries. However, it is my understanding that pyrimethamine tablets cost between $6 and $7 each from a Canadian pharmacy, compared to $750 that Turing was planning to charge in the US. This difference can't be justified and current restrictions must be reconsidered.

The concerns about the prices for new drugs and other drugs that still have patent protection are complex and beyond the scope of this commentary. However, for older drugs for which the patents have expired, the options identified above should be actively pursued to prevent greedy profiteers from exploiting the drug distribution system by restricting availability and charging astronomical prices. Pharmacists, other health professionals, and patient groups must work with legislators and the Food and Drug Administration to remove restrictions that currently limit the extent to which affordable medications can be provided for patients.

09/30/2015

Alum's Pharmacy Nationally Recognized for its Service to Community

HealthMart_Tepper_093015Pharmacy alumnus Craig Lehrman P’89, a second-generation pharmacist who learned the business from his father, was recently honored for consistently providing care and services that add measurable value to patient healthcare and community wellness. His independently-owned Tepper Pharmacy, located in Wynnewood, Pa., is one of 10 pharmacies across the country to receive the Health Mart Community Healthcare Excellence Award.

After graduating from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy in 1989, Lehrman gained most of his pharmacy experience working for others before he achieved his goal of owning a pharmacy in 2011. Over the past four years, Lehrman and his staff have continued to build upon Tepper Pharmacy’s rich 30-year history of delivering personalized care to the community.

“I was interested in the business aspect of pharmacy, but it was my father that guided me into the profession of pharmacy,” he said. “I was looking for a store to buy and even considered opening a new store from scratch, until the perfect opportunity arose to take over Tepper Pharmacy.”

In this new era of chain pharmacies and mail order prescriptions, one of the hallmarks of independent pharmacies, like Tepper, is their ability to understand and cater to the unique needs of their community.

“I want the service that we provide to make us unique,” Lehrman said. “The personal interactions we have with our customers is what makes us stand out and it is an important part of what makes Tepper Pharmacy a successful business.”

Beyond the traditional services most pharmacies offer, Tepper Pharmacy’s staff includes an employee who specializes in fittings for compression stockings and sleeves and is also an expert in durable medical equipment and wound care, a pharmacist who specializes in managing the medications for long-term care facilities in the area, and a pharmacy team that services local dialysis centers.

To help the community stay healthy, Tepper Pharmacy administers vaccinations, offers free delivery anywhere in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and makes every attempt to fill all prescriptions by stocking a large inventory. These specialized and personalized services are just a few examples that exemplify the concern Lehrman and his pharmacy staff have for the community.

The Health Mart Community Healthcare Excellence Award program is a component of the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, which is on the road to celebrate and recognize community pharmacists for the important role they play as trusted healthcare providers in their communities—helping to educate and counsel on a variety of conditions that can be better managed with the help of a pharmacist.  

“Health Mart pharmacies fill a gap in today’s busy healthcare system by providing broader access to clinical services and medication counseling, and our pharmacists often serve as the first point of care for everyone from new parents to grandparents,” said Chuck Wilson, vice president of Health Mart. “We recognize that issues like diabetes and obesity are serious epidemic affecting millions of Americans, and these 10 pharmacists have proven themselves as go-to resources for those in their community managing these diseases.”

07/21/2015

Jamaican a Difference: PCP Students Complete Interprofessional Medical Mission Trip

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Left to right: Pharmacy students Joellen Friedman, Brie Kassamura, Nitin Bagga, Julian Kam, Grace Park and Monika Cios.

Pharmacy student Nitin Bagga PharmD'16 observed closely as a middle-aged Jamaican woman—with teeth rotted well into her gum line—underwent an oral exam at a free health clinic in Kingston. Until that day, the woman had no means of getting medical attention or hope that the pain would come to an end.

Stories like this highlighted all of the reasons why nearly a dozen pharmacy students and professors from University of the Sciences made the journey to Jamaica last month to participate in an interprofessional medical mission trip.

It was a mission to help others, to learn about a culture 1,500 miles from Philadelphia, to gain work experience, and to come away better people. It was a mission to give back.

“This trip was a humbling experience to say the least…seeing the poverty in different parts of the world and being able to help so many in need was extremely rewarding,” said Bagga. “Working with the different healthcare professionals on the trip has prepared me to be the best pharmacist I can be.”

Bagga was accompanied on this trip by his classmates Joellen Friedman PharmD’16, Brie Kassamura PharmD’16, Julian Kam PharmD’16, Grace Park PharmD’16, and Monika Cios PharmD’16; and pharmacy professors Drs. Shelley Otsuka, Jessica Adams, and Yvonne Phan.

The pharmacy group from USciences joined a large team of healthcare practitioners and professional students from Nova Southeastern University and Women of Health Occupation Promoting Education (H.O.P.E.) to provide essential medical services to Jamaicans in critical need of quality medical and dental care, health awareness education, and pediatric care.

By the end of the trip, the team had provided care to more than 3,000 patients at prisons, churches, schools, and hotels across rural and urban communities in Jamaica. In fact, the USciences pharmacy team filled more than 5,000 prescriptions for these patients.

The Philadelphia College of Pharmacy students had many responsibilities before, during, and after the mission trip, said Dr. Otsuka. They prepared for the trip by updating the medication guide-use tools, reviewing the medication formulary, developing patient education pamphlets, creating a continuing medical education presentation handout, and constructing a research project that included a protocol. In addition, they held disease-state topic discussions with their instructors to help review treatment guidelines.

MissionTrip
Joellen Friedman PharmD’16 provides patient counseling to a mother and her young daughter.

The students also collected donations from pharmaceutical companies, alumni, and local businesses, such as SunRay Drugs and ACME Savon Pharmacies. As a result of their efforts, approximately 75 different medications were used to treat a variety of patient conditions in Jamaica. They also held fundraisers in the spring to offset their housing expenses for the trip and to raise money to purchase medical supplies, including gloves, hand sanitizer, and Ziploc bags—which functioned as the medication vial.

During the trip, the students had the opportunity to work alongside healthcare practitioners and students in the fields of medicine, physical and occupational therapy, and dentistry. They also managed a closed formulary system and maintained an accurate medication inventory system, as well as filled, compounded, and labeled medications, and counseled patients on new medications—all under the guidance of their professors.

When the students returned to Philadelphia, Dr. Otsuka said they took stock of their inventory, wrote self-reflection essays, and gathered and analyzed data for a scholarly project. She said they plan to submit an abstract and research poster for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists' Midyear Clinical Meeting, and share their experience with peers and underclassmen this fall.

Throughout the trip, each healthcare profession interacted with pharmacy in a unique and collaborative way, said Park.

“Pharmacy was truly an equally integrative part of the healthcare system and care of the patient,” Park said. “Being able to be a part of that and see it occur in one room was an unforgettable experience.”

CLICK HERE TO SEE A PHOTO GALLERY FROM THE TRIP

04/06/2015

PCP Student Takes Third Place in Prestigious U.S. Pharmacy Competition

Viha daveBy combining her pharmacy education and interpersonal communication skills, pharmacy student Viha Dave PharmD’16 recently took third place at the 2015 National Patient Counseling Competition—held during the American Pharmacists Association Academy’s (APhA) Annual Meeting and Exposition, on March 29, in San Diego. She competed against 126 student pharmacists from across the country, becoming the first pharmacy student in decades to represent USciences as a top 10 finalist in this prestigious competition.

“It was an honor to represent Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the national level, and I hope this gets my younger classmates excited to participate in the future, as this was an enriching experience for me,” said Dave. “My PCP education definitely helped prepare me for this experience because many of my professors continually emphasize the importance of delivering personalized care to our patients.”

The main goal of this national competition is to encourage student pharmacists to become better patient educators. Each year, the competition is designed to reflect changes that are occurring in practice, promote and encourage further professional development of student pharmacists, and reinforce the role of the pharmacist as a healthcare provider and educator.

This competition began at the local level in January, where students, like Dave, competed against their classmates to represent their pharmacy school on a national platform. The national competition was divided into the preliminary round and final round. At the preliminary round, students selected a simple practice scenario at random and were required to counsel a mock patient on the appropriate use of the drug involved. Evaluations were based on the content and style of the counseling presentations, and the top 10 student pharmacists advanced to the final round of the competition.

The final round involved a more complex counseling situation where the participants again selected a prescription at random and were asked to counsel their patients on safe and effective drug use. The patient in the final round, however, also displayed personality characteristics such as anxiousness, aggression or apathy to challenge the participants’ ability to convey pertinent information in a realistic situation.

 “I had the opportunity to watch Viha’s performance during her final counseling round and it was clear that she is a highly competent, confident, and compassionate student pharmacist,” said Kenneth Leibowitz, assistant professor of communications at USciences and co-founder of this national competition.

Dave, along with the other top 10 finalists in the competition, were recognized during the closing ceremony of the APhA  meeting, and the four top winners of the competition received cash prizes.

#ProvenEverywhere

03/10/2015

USciences to Host Panel on LGBT Healthcare on April 1

LGBTStriving to address the healthcare needs in the LGBT community, University of the Sciences has teamed up with local nonprofit organizations to host its first Panel on LGBT Healthcare on Wednesday, April 1, from 7-9 p.m., in Griffith Hall (43rd Street at Woodland Avenue).

“This event is intended to bring together students and community members to learn more about the unique needs and challenges faced by the LGBT community in regards to accessing healthcare,” said AJ Young, coordinator of the event at USciences.

Panelists from ActionAIDS, Philadelphia FIGHT, Mazzoni Center, GALAEI, and the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) will give a brief overview of their organization’s work and mission, discuss current issues and pressing needs in LGBT healthcare, and share what they believe is important for future healthcare professionals to know about working with the LGBT community. There will also be time for questions from the audience.

Invited panelists, include:

  • Tiffany Thompson, Director, Youth-Health Empowerment Project at Philadelphia FIGHT
  • Elaine Dutton, Trans Clinical Services Coordinator, Mazzoni Center
  • Elicia Gonzalez, Executive Director, GALAEI
  • Jay Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator & PWA, ActionAIDS
  • Rosemary Daub, Medical Case Manager Coordinator, ActionAIDS
  • Han Meadway, Transportation Advocate, CARIE

“Our speakers are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people in Philadelphia regarding LGBT issues, and they’re eager to highlight what future healthcare professionals should know to provide quality care that treats LGBT patients with respect and dignity, while addressing their unique and not-so-unique health concerns,” said Young.

This event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served after the panel. For more information, contact Young at a.young@usciences.edu or 215.596.8734.

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