Latelines

Article excerpt

R.Ph.s 'most trusted'--gain

For the ninth straight year, pharmacists have been voted America's most trusted professionals, according to the latest CNN-USA TodayGallup poll. Sixty-nine percent of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of R.Ph.s as either "high" or "very high"-a 5% gain over last year. The next most trusted profession, the clergy, were 10 points behind, at 59%. At the bottom of the rankings were car salesmen, trusted by only 8%, and Congressmen, insurance salesmen, and advertising practitioners, cited by 12%.

New arthritis therapy cleared for marketing

The FDA has given marketing clearance to Searle's Arthrotec (diclofenac sodium 50 or 75 mg/misoprostol 200 mcg). The drug is indicated to relieve the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in patients at high risk for ulcers induced by use of NSAIDs. According to its Chicago-area manufacturer, Arthrotec is the only product with this indication that provides both NSAID strength and GI mucosal protection against ulcers. Each Arthrotec tablet consists of an enteric-coated core of the NSAID diclofenac sodium and an outer mantle containing the synthetic prostaglandin misoprostal to reduce the incidence of ulcers.

Immune globulin supply threatened

Manufacturers of immune globulin products, along with the FDA, are scrambling to determine the cause of a sudden shortage of intravenous immune globulin (IVIG). Production fell 15% between 1996 and 1997, seriously reducing inventories of IVIG, which is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including Kawasaki disease, pediatric AIDS, and other autoimmune disorders. According to FDA officials, increasing demand, possible distribution problems, and hoarding may also be contributing to the shortage. In addition, supplies of intramuscular immune globulin (IMIG), the only immune globulin product with a label indication for hepatitis A food poisoning treatment, are also shrinking. The FDA is urging physicians to prescribe immune globulin products only for the most critical cases now.

Calif. Blues test lower payment

Blue Cross gave California chains and independents an unwelcome holiday gift: a new direct-pricing contract that amounts to AWP less 20% for brandname products. The new contract also lowers maximum allowable ingredient costs, already among the lowest in the state, according to pharmacy managers who have seen the new terms. Sources said Blue Cross is initially pitching the lower rates to Costco and other high-volume chains first, promising increased volume to offset reduced margins. Early indications suggest that corporate offices are turning thumbs down on the contract, which will be pushed at independent store owners around California if the chains balk. The California Pharmacists Association has asked Blue Cross for clarification and has pledged to fight the new contract.

HCFA puts limit on Rx errors

To participate in Medicare and Medicaid, hospitals would be limited to a medication error rate of 2%, under a proposal from HCFA. "This is a reasonable medication error rate to achieve, given modern drug packaging and drug information systems," HCFA said. Hospitals also would have to institute policies of "zero tolerance for significant" Rx errors and establish a four-layer safety net. Nurses would be required "to review drug orders for accuracy of the entire system before Rxs are administered."

New York ends selHnjectable 'discrimination'

New York's Gov. George E. Pataki and superintendent of insurance Neil D. Levin want to stop health maintenance organizations from discriminating against patients who need self-injectable drugs. HMO members in the western part of the state have complained that some plans require a higher co-pay for injectables than for other drugs. But Pataki and Levin said the state insurance department will be directing HMOs to stop the practice voluntarily or face "administrative action" by the department, according to Levin. …