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Big Changes to Infant Medication

When your child is sick there is nothing you won’t do to make him or her feel better. Even when my daughter is well I make sure that I have certain medications in my cabinet for those unexpected fevers or raspy coughs. Now there are some big changes being made to infant acetaminophen. As a student in a pharmacy technician university, it is important to stay abreast of the ever changing drug dosages.

According to Sam Warren, news writer for Babycenter.com, “new, less concentrated version of infant acetaminophen is hitting store shelves across the United States. This new formulation will completely replace the old version in most stores by early 2012. U.S. drug manufacturers are making the change to reduce the risk of potentially fatal overdoses from this common baby pain reliever.”

Apparently the infant formula was much more concentrated than the older child’s counterpart and several parents gave an overdose to their child. “A teaspoon of concentrated drops, for instance, delivers three times as much acetaminophen as a teaspoon of the children’s liquid,” explains Warren.

To remedy this confusion, the manufacturers of infant acetaminophen aren’t changing the amount of the effective ingredients in their dosage, just the amount of fluid given.

However, Warren reminds that “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow manufacturers to provide dosage recommendations for children under age 2 on the bottles or packaging. In May 2011, an advisory committee recommended changing this policy — but the FDA has not yet done so, and the old policy is still in effect, at least for now.”

Personally I think that not putting dosage directions for children under two is just as dangerous as having a different concentration of medication for toddler and children’s medications. Parents with sick kids are still going to try to adjust the dosing to fit their child’s needs.

A final FYI: “The old version of infant acetaminophen is a concentrated form of the medicine administered with a dropper. To recognize it, look for a dropper top and for this concentration on the bottle: 80 mg/0.8 mL. The bottle will be labeled ‘concentrated drops’ or something similar.

“The new version of infant acetaminophen is a less concentrated form of the medicine. To recognize it, look for the syringe (not a dropper) and for this concentration on the bottle: 160 mg/5 mL.”

Getting pharmacy technician training is exciting, detailed and extremely interesting. The more you know, the better you will be able to help those who need your advice!

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Drug Shortages Becoming More Common

I think medications have become the sixth food group on the dietary pyramid. I’m not judging; I pop pills like tic tacs including everything from flax seed oil to vitamins to Excedrin. Yesterday I visited a friend in an assisted living home and he had a virtual smorgasbord of medications on his coffee table. Amongst all this pill popping, it’s amazing the hear about the drug shortage that is burdening our hospitals. Pharmacy training is an important field to help fill the demands.

Fred Couzens reports in The Henderson Press that, “A few weeks ago, a national survey of 820 hospitals revealed, among other things, widespread troubles with keeping adequate supplies of drugs on hand… The survey was conducted by the American Hospital Association.”

“Jason Glick, the local CHW [Catholic Healthcare West] director of pharmacy, says the CHW hospitals mirror the national results in respect to the finding that 99.5 percent of the hospitals had a shortage of one or more drugs in the past six months, and 44 percent experienced a shortage of 21 or more drugs.”

“’We keep a list of medications on short supply, and we’re constantly reviewing the list at staff meetings,’ said the Doctor of Pharmacy who received his PharmD degree from Idaho State University. ‘Generally, we say, let’s make a plan now. So we’re proactive when it comes to drug supplies. It’s much better to have decisions made before the shortage comes up than to ask ourselves, “Now what do we do?”’

“CHW hospitals also order extra inventory to have on hand, when it’s available, if a shortage is predicted or imminent. That policy to buy excess inventory also occurred at 85 percent of the hospitals participating in the survey,” explains Couzens.

The survey also found some interesting facts such as 47% of the hospitals surveyed experienced daily drug shortages, these shortages are driving drug prices up, and restrictions were implemented to get the medications to those who need it most.To prepare for the unavoidable shortages, 47% of hospitals bought a more expensive alternative, 76% bought a more expensive therapeutic alternative and 42% bought a more expensive product from a new distributor.

Those getting pharmacy technician training are going to experience these medical dilemmas first hand. Knowing how to distribute, compensate and prepare for drug shortages are an important part of the job.

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Expiring Drug Patents Keep Pharmacy Techs Busy

It seems like the prices of everything has gone up exponentially: gas, milk, postage, and everything else we use on a daily basis. However, one necessity seems to have a major price cut pending: medications. With many patents soon to be expiring, future pharmacy technicians are going to be busy.

On MLive.com, Terri Finch Hamilton reports that “The next 14 months will bring generic versions of seven of the world’s 20 best-selling drugs, including the top two: cholesterol fighter Lipitor and blood thinner Plavix. An unprecedented slew of drug patents are expiring soon, paving the way for much cheaper generic versions of drugs used by millions.”

This is great news for those on a limited income who require the aid of these medications. “’Somebody who has a $50 copay might have a $10 copay now,’ said Kay Pharmacy and Home Medical Equipment owner and pharmacist Mike Koelzer. ‘There are people who won’t take their medication, or take it every other day because they can’t afford it. There’s a lot of that — and not just by people who are destitute.’

“The news is good for his business, too, he said. ’We can shop around now,’ Koelzer said. ‘We can go to four or five different companies that make the generics — they’ll be competing now — and the savings trickles down.’”

Hamilton explains that most patients who are in Lipitor or Plavix are usually on about five or six medications making it very costly. “Generic drugs typically cost 20 percent to 80 percent less than the brand names… Last year, the average generic prescription cost $72, versus $198 for the average brand-name drug, according to consulting firm Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions.

“Of the top sellers that soon will have competition, Lipitor retails for about $150 a month, Plavix costs almost $200 a month and blood pressure drug Diovan costs about $125 a month. For those with drug coverage, their out-of-pocket costs for each of those drugs could drop to less than $10 a month.”

It’s no secret that a large portion of our population is quickly entering the senior citizen category, and this is welcome news for them. I can’t help but think of my parents who are in their early 60’s and the cornucopia of vials and bottles that are already collecting on their kitchen counter. While many aging people are trying to figure on how to survive since their retirement investments are diminished and their home is a fraction of its projected worth, this is one bright spot in their financial future.

With such a high demand and now an affordable supply, those in a pharmacy assistant college should be able to find work as local pharmacies scramble to make these new generic medications available.

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Pharmacists Implement Compounding to Decrease Drug Shortage

Close your eyes for a second and there is something new on the medical horizon. Today I came across the new concept of drug compounding. Those getting pharmacy technician training may need to learn about this cutting edge process.

I’m not a stranger to generic medications and love my $4 prescriptions from Target. However, the term “compounding” was new to me when I came across an article on Billings Gazette. Reporter Cindy Uken writes that “Some patients are finding it increasingly difficult to find diabetes, thyroid and pain medications and other drugs as the 6-year-old national drug shortage widens. But many are finding an alternative: compounding… ‘“We follow a formula step by step,’ Mark Jurovich, a pharmacist and co-owner of Juro’s Home Medical-Pharmacy said. ‘We use the same drug and the same concentration to get the same desired effect. We work to create an equivalent substitution.’”

Drug shortages are a huge problem for patients and compounding has helped to ease some of the pressure. Uken explains that, “In 2010, more than 240 drugs were either in short supply or not available, according to a report from Premier Healthcare Alliance. And more than 400 generic drugs were back-ordered for more than five days. Exacerbating the problem is that at least 89 new shortages were recorded through the end of March.

“The shortages are the result of a variety of factors that include manufacturing and quality problems, delays, and discontinuations; consolidation of pharmaceutical manufacturers; a shortage of imported raw materials; limited production capacity; a recall of some contaminated vials; closure of firms to upgrade processes; a halt in making older medications to begin production of newer, more profitable drugs; and spikes in demand.

“Many of the shortages involve older, cheaper generic medications with slim profit margins, causing manufacturers to halt production.”

Through carefully manufacturing compounds to make up for the drugs in demand, pharmacies are extending their role in the health care industry. “Though prices will vary depending on the type of drug, dosage and other factors, Jurovich said a compounding pharmacy can provide drugs ‘economically’ because the profit margin dictated by big pharmacy chains isn’t there. Most insurance companies cover compounded drugs, he said.”

As pharmacies continue to adopt this practice, students in a pharmacy assistant college in the Bay Area are likely to find more jobs available due to the increase in supply for certain medications at the pharmacy level.

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How Will Robotic Pharmacies Impact Pharmacy Technician Students?

Is there anything that epitomizes civilization better than a vending machine? There is something glorious and mesmerizing about inserting a crisp dollar bill and a few coins into a well positioned slot and the “thunk” of junk food plops in the plastic bin. Oh, the wonders of technology. Now certain medications will be available to patients in the same way. How will this modernization impact pharmacy technicians?

Yesterday in the Sacramento Bee it was reported how at “Molina Medical Group clinics in Sacramento, a vending machine, not a pharmacist, dispenses prescription drugs… Molina officials say the big machines make life simpler for patients, but their use has drawn objections from some pharmacists.”

There are several benefits to these drug dispensing kiosks. “Many of the patients at the clinic on Sacramento’s Norwood Avenue are children, and the robotic pharmacy, which has been in place for almost two years, is especially popular among their parents, clinic administrator Veoletta Huerls said… The machines also eliminate delays that result from transferring insurance information from clinics to pharmacies… Dr. Bobbi Underhill, a pediatrician, said only one of her patients had taken that option [going to a pharmacy] over using the pharmacy in the clinic.”

“The kiosks are the size of a large refrigerator. They hold a stock of medications for common illnesses such as colds, the flu and rashes, so patients can have prescriptions filled before they leave the clinic… InstyMeds Corp. of Minneapolis released the kiosks in 2002. They are now installed in about 200 locations around the country” reported the Sacramento Bee.

Some pharmacists are concerned over the popularization of these dispensaries because they eliminate pharmacy to patient consultations. However, I would hope that doctors would inform the patients of how to take these medications. Also, the medications available in these machines are primarily for “common illnesses such as colds, the flu and rashes.” Many of the same precautions need to be taken with over the counter medications which are readily available, so I would think the same risks are at hand.

Technology in the medical field is ever changing and those in a pharmacy technician program in the San Francisco Bay Area need to be prepared. Drives through pharmacies are common place and now medication kiosks are popping up in several clinics. I can’t wait to see what the next new thing is on the horizon.

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Errors With Technology Could Put Patients' Lives at Risk

I’ve been tracking technological advances in the health care industry for a little while now and most of the trends seem really positive. Robotics in surgery, automated drug dispensers and electronic files seem to be integrating well into the hospital settings. Unfortunately, nothing and no one is perfect; an attention to detail is a vital part of being a medical assistant or a pharmacy technician student.

Reporters Judith Graham and Cynthia Dizikes wrote a disturbing story in the Los Angeles Times about how a pharmacy technician input the wrong information into the computer and a premature baby overdosed on sodium chloride. “When the nutritional fluids were administered to Genesis, a tiny baby born 16 weeks prematurely, the infant’s heart stopped, and he died, leaving behind parents stunned by grief.

“Although a series of other errors contributed to the tragedy, its origin — a piece of data entered inaccurately into a computer program — throws a spotlight on safety risks associated with medicine’s advance into the information age, a trend being pushed aggressively under health reform.”

“The federal government is aiding the shift with $23 billion in incentives to medical providers who buy electronic medical records or computerized systems that automate drug orders and other medical processes. The hope is that these technologies will enhance access to vast amounts of information tucked away in paper files and meaningfully improve medical care.

“Doctors should be able to see test results quickly and communicate more easily with each other, for example. And electronic safeguards can remind physicians about recommended medical practices or alert them to harmful interactions between medicines.

“Yet with these sizable potential benefits also come potential problems. Hospital computers may crash or software bugs jumble data, deleting information from computerized records or depositing it in the wrong place. Sometimes, computers spew forth a slew of disorganized data, and physicians can’t quickly find critical information about patients.”

Errors happen in every field and have a variety of different outcomes. Unfortunately when it comes to the medical field, many times it can mean the difference between life and death. Vendors of this equipment blame human error for the death of this newborn and not on computer malfunction.

As a pharmacy technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is vital to be accurate and thorough in your upcoming occupation. Check and recheck to make sure the information is correct.

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