Magazine article Drug Topics

Is Unit-of-Use Packaging as Good as It Looks?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Is Unit-of-Use Packaging as Good as It Looks?

Article excerpt

Unit-of-use packaging is being given a fresh look to help address pharmacy manpower shortages, prescription errors, and patient compliance. But evidence is only beginning to be gathered that could support those assumptions, attendees of a one-day seminar sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association were told earlier this month. In addition, a move toward more widespread use of label- and dispensing-ready manufacturers' packages of prescription drugs faces several hurdles as well, several speakers pointed out.

The potential for saving time during the dispensing process seems to be significant, Earlene E. Lipowski, an associate professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, reported. In a study she conducted, two pharmacist-technician teams dispensed 50 unit-of-use Rxs each in a total of 40 minutes, compared with 86 minutes when they switched to the count-and-pour method. Each team made two counting errors with the traditional bulk bottles. Lipowski and her colleague David B. Brushwood, who moderated the seminar, are further studying the degree of error reduction as well as how consumers and regulators view unit-of-use.

Brushwood said preliminary results indicated that "more than half of pharmacy errors could be prevented through unit-of-use packaging and perhaps much more." A representative from the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America in the audience said that was the kind of evidence needed to help persuade the industry, which is actively exploring more unit-of-use packaging. Bert A. Spilker, M.D., senior vp. for scientific and regulatory affairs at PhRMA, said, "Prices clearly are going to go up for unit-of-use. Is the public going to be willing to pay?" He also said the industry was seeking guidance on what drugs or classes would be good candidates to start moving to unit-ofuse, since it was unlikely a wholesale changeover would be made. …

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