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One Step Closer to Helping Pharmacy Technicians Help Patients

As a patient, I get so frustrated when I go to pick up a prescription on auto-refill only to be called the next day to pick up another medication. Many of these customers are the elderly or infirmed and I can’t imagine how they feel about making the extra trip to the pharmacy. Now pharmacy technician school students and patients alike can rejoice at the strides pharmacies are taking to improve their customer service.

On, Valerie DeBenedette writes that there is a new program created by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) that helps with patient compliance and also can increase pharmacy revenue. This exciting new program helps pharmacists coordinate and synchronize their medications that their patients take on an ongoing basis.

DeBenedette explains that “A pharmacy technician calls the patient once a month to discuss his or her prescriptions, said Janet Kusler, RPh, who owns Kusler’s Pharmacy in Snohomish, Wash. If any refill prescriptions are needed, the pharmacy calls the physician to arrange them… When the patient comes in a few days later, the prescriptions are ready and waiting, and the pharmacist can consult with the patient about them.”

In this voluntary program in which patients can request to be a part of, their current medications may be partially refilled to coordinate with new medications until all are on the same cycle. DeBenedette said that “Having a pharmacy technician make the calls, synchronize the medication refills, and get the prescriptions ready ahead of time produced significant financial benefits and time savings in her pharmacy, said Kusler.”

There is also a benefit to pharmacies as patients are more likely to buy from a store that is implementing this program and are less likely to skip getting a prescription if everything is ready with one pick-up. This also saves a great deal of time for pharmacy technicians as they can process several medications for one patient in one sitting. The PT “manages the process. He will take orders and run labels and get them filled 2 to 3 days ahead of when the patient comes in,’ Kusler said.’ All I do is check the order.’”

There are always new and exciting advancements in the medical profession for both workers and patients alike. This is just another way to ensure patient health and to save precious dollars.

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Drug Shortages Continue to Rise

Every month I seem to hit on an article that deals with difficult drug shortages and a new group of people who are being negatively affected by it. Those in a pharmacy technician school will have interesting challenges ahead as they try to compensate for and aid those patients who need to find alternative medications.

On Shandra Martinez writes that Adderal, a popular medication that helps children and adults who battle with attention deficit disorder, is no longer available. “Adderall is one of more than 200 prescription drug shortages this year, according to Food and Drug Association.That already surpasses 2010, when the drug shortage list peaked at 178,” explains Martinez. “In 2005, there were only 61 drugs in short supply.”

74% of the drugs that are in limited supply are for cancer treatment. “Pharmacists, physicians and staffers now sometimes have to meet several times a day to discuss alternative medication plans for patients. Switching medications used for treatments requires changing everything from staff protocols to ordering procedures,” states Martinez.

What scares me is that the medications that are in short supply are not for rare conditions but for common disorders and sicknesses. Additude.mag reports that “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, shows that AD/HD affects up to 7.5 percent of school-aged children. The National Institute of Health, using information from previous studies, had estimated the number of children with AD/HD to be between 3% – 5% of the population.” According to, in January 2008 approximately 11,958,000 people had cancer.

Martinez says that “The drug shortage is an example of what happens when the law of supply-and-demand collides with the urgent needs of health care… Last month, President Barack Obama ordered the FDA to take some steps to reduce drug shortages. Those include pushing drug companies to quickly report shortages so they can be addressed, speeding up reviews of new manufacturing facilities and working with the Justice Department to step up investigation of price gouging in the pharmaceuticals market… While the industry supports the increased federal oversight, some blame the problem on a federal law that gives the FDA and Drug Enforcement Agency the power to limit the amount of ‘controlled substance’ ingredients available for manufacturing.”

Hopefully there will be a viable solution to end this drug shortage problem. Until then, students in a pharmacy technician program will have to help pharmacists and doctors with their creative treatments.

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Should Pharmacy Medications Be More Closely Monitored?

As the number of chronic pain patients increases, it is obvious that the use of pharmacy medications is also on the rise. What worries me is the addictive nature of many of these pharmacy medications, the ease of availability of them and the risk that is greatly downplayed with taking these pills. This is a serious issue that pharmacy technicians may have to face at the pharmacy counter.

According to a report published in USA Today, “The number of overdose deaths from powerful painkillers more than tripled over a decade, the government reported Tuesday — a trend the nation’s top health official called an epidemic, but one that can be stopped… Prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone led to the deaths of almost 15,000 people in 2008, including actor Heath Ledger. That’s more than three times the 4,000 deaths in 1999.

“The report shows nearly 5 percent of Americans ages 12 and older said they’ve abused painkillers in the past year — using them without a prescription or just for the high. In 2008-09 surveys, Oklahomans reported the highest rate of abuse; the lowest was in Nebraska and Iowa… The overdose deaths reflect the spike in the number of narcotic painkillers prescribed every year — enough to give every American a one-month supply, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which issued the report… Prescriptions rose as doctors aimed to better treat pain and as new painkillers hit the market.”

I admit that for a couple of years I was one of the daily Vicodin patients. Fibromyalgia and chronic pain plague my body and although pharmacy medications don’t fully take the pain away, it does take the edge off and make it manageable. I will also admit that my exercise regimen is non-existent and my diet isn’t the healthiest. I think that I, like most people, would rather take relief in a pill than actually do the hard work to improve my condition. Am I proud? No. But truth is truth. (Anyway, I quit taking Vicodin three years ago when I got pregnant with my daughter. If that isn’t a great incentive, I don’t know what is!)

So how can pharmacy technician schools help to alleviate this problem? Quite frankly, it’s up to the doctors who prescribe the pharmacy medications and the patients who need to take responsibility for their own well-being. However, if you see a problem arising or a dangerous drug interaction prescribed, it is your duty to report it. Read more about starting a career as a Pharmacy Technician.

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New Medicinal Gel May Prevent HIV and STDs

Part of the exciting world of going to a pharmacy assistant college is learning about all of the available medications and prescriptions that are being manufactured. Pharmaceuticals are part of an ever changing health industry and new findings are published on a consistent basis.

One of these new advancements was published on in which reporter Claire Mcinerny writes about a new gel that is being formulated to help protect a woman’s vagina against STDs and HIV. “Sarah Kieweg, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institute of Health to continue developing a preventative gel for the virus,” explains Mcinerny.

“’This microbicidal gel needs to protect all the vaginal surfaces. It needs to be spreading where it needs to go and keeping the drug where it needs to be, so the basics of the research involve examining the fluid mechanics of how that gel will spread around’ Kieweg said in an Oct. 7 news release.”

Mcinerny further comments that, “The team of researchers, which also includes Carl Weiner, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at KU Medical Center and Kyle Camarda, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, are developing an instrument that predicts how the gel moves, to make sure the gel is as effective as possible against HIV and other STDs… The goal for the team’s instrument is to perfect the gel’s physical and chemical barrier for women against HIV and other STDs. If completed, the instrument will help create other drugs for women’s sexual health.”

I can’t help but think of the impact that this could have on the many nations who struggle with the immense fatalities of the HIV and AIDS virus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “At the end of 2008, an estimated 1,178,350 persons aged 13 and older were living with HIV infection in the United States. Of those, 20% had undiagnosed HIV infections… CDC estimates that approximately 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV each year in the United States. In 2009 (the most recent year that data are available), there were an estimated 48,100 new HIV infections. Most (61%) of these new infections occurred in gay and bisexual men. Black/African American men and women were also strongly affected and were estimated to have an HIV incidence rate than was 7 times as high as the incidence rate among whites.”

Getting pharmacy technician training is an amazing way to impact the lives of many people. Once drugs and medications are available to those who greatly need them, countless lives can be changed.

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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, “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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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, 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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