What are 2017's top 10 pharmacy stories?

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Pharmacist prescribing, high blood pressure guidelines, provider status lead the list

1. Oregon expands prescribing for pharmacists

In May 2017, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law a bill that allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense drugs or devices without a physician’s prescription, provided that a health professional has already made a relevant diagnosis and the drugs or devices are on a formulary to be established by an executive committee of allied health professionals. The law expands the previous Public Health Advisory Committee and renames it the Public Health and Pharmacy Formulary Advisory Committee to reflect the inclusion of three pharmacists along with two physicians and two nurse practitioners.

2. New AHA/ACC guidelines redefine high blood pressure as 130/80 mm Hg

High blood pressure is now defined as a reading of 130/80 mm Hg, according to the first new comprehensive guidelines in more than a decade from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The new guidelines eliminate the category of prehypertension, which was used for blood pressures between 120–139/80–89 mm Hg. Patients with those readings now will be categorized as having either elevated (120–129/<80 mm Hg) or Stage 1 hypertension (130–139/80–89 mm Hg). Readings of measures at or above ≥140/≥90 mm Hg are considered Stage 2 hypertension under the new guidelines. The guidelines strongly recommend a team-based care approach to treatment, and include pharmacists in the discussion.

3. Trump nominee for HHS supports pharmacists’ role in patient care

As part of the Senate’s confirmation process for President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) back in early 2017, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) supported pharmacist provider status in his written response to the Senate Finance Committee’s “Questions for the record from Ranking Member Ron Wyden.”

4. Amazon is hiring people to break into the pharmacy market

As reported in May 2017, Amazon planned to hire an executive to help the company break into the multibillion-dollar pharmacy market. Two people familiar with the company's plans said it is not a done deal that Amazon will move into this space, given the complex web of established players.

5. DEA mandates reduction in opioid manufacturing for 2018

DEA’s finalized annual aggregate production quotas (APQs) for 2018 mandate a 20% reduction in the amount of opiate and opioid medication—including oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine, codeine, meperidine, and fentanyl—that may be manufactured in 2018. Quotas are aimed at preventing a diversion while simultaneously satisfying annual needs.

6. Influenza vaccines on target, but only half effective

Northern Hemisphere vaccines for 2017 are on target, yet only offer 48% protection against medically attended influenza, according to CDC officials in a February 2017 Community Outreach and Communication Activity conference call and webinar.

7. Pharmacists are eligible for NIH student loan repayment program

Pharmacists are included in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs), a set of programs established by the U.S. Congress and designed to recruit and retain highly qualified health professionals into research careers.

8. Speculation continues surrounding Amazon, UPS, and pharmacy

On October 27, 2017, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Amazon had received approval from 12 state boards of pharmacy for wholesale pharmacy licenses. The article has fueled media speculation about Amazon potentially entering the pharmacy market, but a spokesperson for Amazon told Pharmacy Today, “We have a longstanding practice of not commenting on rumors and speculation.”

9. Proper vaccination technique is key to avoiding shoulder injury

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program added shoulder injury related to vaccination administration (SIRVA) to its Vaccination Injury Table in early 2017. The table defines SIRVA as shoulder pain and limited range of motion after vaccination administration, caused by injury to the musculoskeletal structures of the shoulder such as tendons, ligaments, and bursae.

10. CDC issues guidance on Td vaccine shortage

In August 2017, CDC issued guidance for immunization providers that states if Td vaccine is not available, Tdap should be administered to patients who:

  • Are due for a booster but have never received Tdap
  • Have tetanus-prone wounds, even if they have already received Tdap in the past
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