News You Can Use, March 2014


Annual mammograms may be unnecessary, even harmful, new study finds

While women aged 40 years and older have long been advised to receive regular mammograms as part of their health care regimen, new research published in BMJ calls into question the value of this common and costly breast cancer screening practice.

For the 25-year-long study, a team of Toronto-based researchers followed the health outcomes of more than 89,000 women aged 40 to 59 years, some of whom received annual mammograms and others who did not. They concluded that regular mammogram screening is no more effective at reducing breast cancer deaths than physical exams or “usual care.” Further, the researchers found that 22% of the breast cancer diagnoses based on annual mammograms were asymptomatic, with no potential of fatality. According to the researchers, these study results “support the views of some commentators that the rationale for screening by mammography should be urgently reassessed by policy makers.”

In an editorial featured in the same issue of BMJ, Mette Kalager, MD, and her colleagues at the University of Oslo and the Harvard School of Public Health noted that new medications such as tamoxifen have proven very effective in reducing breast cancer fatalities, helping to reduce the need of annual mammograms for those younger than 60 years. In response to the study, Richard C. Wender, MD, Chief of Cancer Control for the American Cancer Society, told the New York Times that new guidelines to be released later this year will consider the results of all studies on the value of mammograms.

The Times noted that approximately 37 million mammograms are conducted in the United States every year, at a cost of roughly $100 per screening.

Australian pharmacists head to North America to learn, network

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is hosting its 39th Offshore Refresher Conference in New York City and Washington, DC, May 20–30, 2014, with optional pre- and postconference programs in Arizona, Utah, and Las Vegas, as well as aboard a cruise ship from Boston to Quebec. The main conference program begins May 22 in Washington, DC, with opening remarks from PSA Board Director Warwick Plunkett, BPharm, FPS, MACPP, AFAIPM; PSA National President Grant Kardachi; APhA President Matthew C. Osterhaus, BSPharm, FASCP, FAPhA; and Australian Ambassador to the United States Hon. Kim Beazley.

Throughout the 10 days of the main conference, workshop sessions in Washington, DC, and New York will focus on the latest advancements in geriatrics and otolaryngology, medication management issues, business management advice, and practice-related discussion of pain management and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The event’s first preconference option is an eight-night “wild west” tour May 8–16, with stops at such popular travel destinations as the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park.

A preconference extension option adds four nights in Las Vegas, May 16–20, while a postconference “recovery cruise” will leave from New England on May 30 and arrive in eastern Canada on June 7, with stops along the way in Bar Harbor, ME; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Prince Edward Island. Further information about the conference, including a complete program and registration form, can be found at

New resources available from Pharmacy HIT Collaborative

New reporting codes are available for Transitional Care Management and Chronic Care Coordination Services on the Pharmacy Health Information Technology (HIT) Collaborative website. These codes represent new multispecialty coding that may be used by pharmacists on the health care team to provide services for transitional care management and care coordination of chronic diseases. Pharmacists also can see how medication therapy management services can be well documented using SNOMED CT codes in Medication Therapy Management Services Clinical Documentation, also available on the collaborative’s website.

“Now that these documents are available, we hope pharmacists will take advantage and disseminate this information with their students, colleagues, and system vendors to take the guidance contained within the documents and put it into action,” said Rachelle F. Spiro, BSPharm, FASCP, Executive Director of the collaborative. The collaborative also worked with Health Level Seven (HL7) to post the Pharmacist Electronic Health Record Implementation Guide for Community Practice on the HL7 website. Pharmacists can integrate clinical functions, such as electronically collecting, documenting, and exchanging information, into their pharmacy management systems.

APhA is a member of the collaborative.