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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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Pharmacy Technicians Help With Drug Shortages

A serious problem that many health care institutions are facing has to do with drug shortages. Pharmacy Technician students may be the answer to help solve this problem in the future.

On, this story was reported and addresses the concerns of the medical industry. “Manufacturing issues, including shortages in raw materials and packaging supplies, product discontinuation, limited manufacturing capacity, and pharmaceutical industry consolidation, have led to a significant increase in drug shortages over the last five years. To avoid compromising patient care associated with shortages, hospital and health-system pharmacies have developed proactive strategies to streamline inventory maintenance and utilize key staff, including CPhTs, in pharmacy operations.”

“Pharmacy technicians are instrumental in managing inventory and communicating department needs to supervisors,” said Erin Fox, PharmD, Manager, Drug Information Services, University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics. “By working cooperatively within the pharmacy team, they allow the department to better optimize daily workflow output and reprioritize medication distribution activities as patients’ needs change.”

I know that the shortage of flu vaccines has been a problem the past few years, but I am surprised that this issue hasn’t been resolved yet and that the difficulty of getting other medications is on the rise. There are many viable ways to reduce this problem. “Health-system pharmacies may better manage drug shortages by effectively utilizing available technology. Automation has evolved to expand distribution system capabilities and improve safety and efficiency in distribution. Automation pharmacy technicians, responsible for the management of automated dispensing devices such as robots or automated dispensing cabinets, assist with implementation, maintenance, and optimization of these technologies and may be called upon to assist with drug shortage responsibilities. This includes assisting with product distribution, database modification, and the redistribution of product to areas of higher need.”

It’s no secret that the need for nurses is on the rise as a large portion of our society ages, and that means that Pharmacy Technicians in the San Francisco Bay Area are also going to be in high demand. The need for medical care and the need for medications in going to increase in the near future. Although budget cuts and the declining economy doesn’t seem to be gaining momentum any time soon, the health care industry is one of the few areas of employment that is getting stronger.

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