Vital Record » Pharmacy http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:55:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Surge in heroin use tied to prescription opioid abuse, according to CDC http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=surge-in-heroin-use-tied-to-prescription-opioid-abuse-according-to-cdc http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=surge-in-heroin-use-tied-to-prescription-opioid-abuse-according-to-cdc#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 21:39:20 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24127 Heroin use has increased a staggering 63 percent over the last 10 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That increase, according to the agency, is closely tied to the growing abuse of prescription opioids; an alarming 45 percent of Americans addicted to heroin are also addicted to prescription opioids]]>

Heroin use has increased a staggering 63 percent over the last 10 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That increase, according to the agency, is closely tied to the growing abuse of prescription opioids such as oxycodone (Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and codeine. An alarming 45 percent of Americans addicted to heroin are also addicted to prescription opioids.

To combat both the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic the Obama administration announced on Monday a new $13.4 million program to curb access to both. The program will target illegal trafficking of the drugs in areas that have been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, including Appalachia, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Before moving to street-level trafficking, many prescription opioid addicts first try to obtain the drugs through pharmacies. Bree Watzak, PharmD, of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, says easy access to prescription opioids is largely behind this surge in use. Watzak says that prescription opioids appeal to addicts in a way that street drugs don’t. “If someone becomes addicted,” she says, “they can walk into a safe, clean store and use their insurance to purchase them, unlike street drugs.”

Drug being injected into skin

An alarming 45 percent of Americans addicted to heroin are also addicted to prescription opioids.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report also supports Watzak’s claims, finding both prescription opioid and heroin addiction is growing significantly among the affluent and people with private insurance, two groups that historically have had relatively low rates of abuse. According to the CDC, people in these groups tend to move on to heroin only after being cut off from prescription opioids. Watzak echoes the CDC’s findings. “We see that people tend to move on to street drugs after they’ve lost access to prescription opioids. It’s a progression,” she says.

Watzak notes that most states have a prescription drug monitoring database that allows doctors and pharmacists to see if an individual is going to multiple doctors or pharmacies seeking prescriptions. “The law says we have a corresponding responsibility to make sure that medications are used for legitimate medical purposes,” says Watzak. “Pharmacists are trained to recognize red flags and if we have concerns we can call the physician and ask them if they’re aware of the red flags.”

Most people who become addicted to prescription opioids don’t intend to use them for recreational purposes, according to Watzak. “People typically use prescription opioids because they’ve been prescribed them by a physician for a legitimate reason, but then they like the way the drugs make them feel.” Watzak says prescription opioid addicts use a variety of methods to access the drugs, including exaggerating or inventing symptoms, doctor and pharmacy shopping, and forgery.

Watzak says when a pharmacist suspects a patient is addicted to prescription opioids, they’re advised to stage a mini-intervention with the patient and recommend treatment options. “I’ve never had to do it,” she says, “but I’ve heard from colleagues who have and they’ve said they don’t go well. The patient typically doesn’t want to hear it at the time, but once they’re clean they remember that a pharmacist tried to help them.”

Recovery for prescription opioid and heroin addicts can be particularly fraught. According to Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, the connection between prescription opioid abuse and heroin use is directly related to other public health issues, including the increasing rate of HIV infections and car accidents. This is particularly troubling as these issues put the patient at an increased likelihood of needing a legitimate prescription for opioids to aid in the recovery from a planned procedure or accident.

“If we know the patient has a history of addiction we can prescribe drugs in a different class, or only use the minimal dose,” says Watzak, but she stresses it’s up to patients to disclose their addiction to their provider.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=surge-in-heroin-use-tied-to-prescription-opioid-abuse-according-to-cdc/feed/ 0
How generic drugs save Americans $3 billion a week http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=how-generic-drugs-save-americans-3-billion-a-week http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=how-generic-drugs-save-americans-3-billion-a-week#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 14:00:17 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24030 For many consumers generics are a cost-effective alternative to pricier brand-name prescription drugs. But are they as effective? ]]>

After Salima Rami injured her back in a car accident, her doctor prescribed her the brand-name pain medication Percocet. When she went to fill the prescription her pharmacist explained it would take several days for the brand-name medication to arrive, but in the mean time he would dispense the generic form of the drug. “I didn’t notice any difference,” she says, “it worked just as well while I went through physical therapy and it was much cheaper.”

Prescription bottle, laying on side

Consumers often believe that like other brand-name retail goods, brand-name drugs are higher quality than generics, but that isn’t necessarily true.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, generic drugs account for more than 8 in 10 of all prescriptions filled in the United States. For many consumers generics are a cost-effective alternative to pricier brand-name prescription drugs. “Generic drugs offer consumers tremendous savings,” says Robert W. Hutchison, Pharm. D., associate professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Generics save the average person 80-85 percent on the cost of a prescription. To put it into perspective, generics save Americans $3 billion each week.”

Generics are so cost effective, many insurance companies require pharmacies dispense them in place of the brand-name drug whenever possible. Hutchison says most patients don’t notice the difference between the brand-name and generic version of the drug. “Generic drug manufacturers are required to prove to the FDA that the drug has the same efficacy and quality as the brand-name.”

Consumers often believe that like other brand-name retail goods, brand-name drugs are higher quality than generics, but that isn’t necessarily true. In a recent randomized double-blind study patients were given two shots. They were told the first shot was a brand-name drug and the second was a generic drug with the same efficacy. While both shots were the same saline solution, patients reported a 28 percent improvement in their symptoms after receiving the shot of the fake brand-name drug.

This perception isn’t uncommon and Hutchison stresses that generics must have the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug. Inactive ingredients in generics can vary. “The FDA allows generic drugs a 20 percent variation in how they are absorbed and processed by the body, but studies show that in practice the actual variation is much smaller, only 3.5 percent.” Hutchison also notes the 3.5 percent variation can also occur within different batches of brand-name drugs. Generics are so similar to their brand-name counterparts, Hutchison says, “some generics are even made in the same factory as the brand-name drug.”

Some people wonder why brand-name drugs come with a bigger price tag if they are manufactured in the same facility. The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug development estimates pharmaceutical companies spend $2.6 billion out of pocket to research, develop, gain FDA approval and market a new drug. “Pharmaceutical companies bear a lot of upfront costs in developing new drugs. Those costs are passed along to the consumer in the form of the brand-name version of the drug,” confirms Hutchison.

In part because of these significant upfront costs, not all drugs are available in generic form. After gaining FDA approval many prescription drugs are patented, preventing generic versions from hitting pharmacy shelves for several years. Additionally, many narrow therapeutic index (NTI) drugs are not available in generic form for safety reasons. Drugs on the NTI contain active ingredients that have a small margin between a therapeutic and toxic dose, including some blood thinners and chemotherapy drugs.

Despite their efficacy and cost savings, the generic version of a drug may not be suitable for everyone. Hutchison says some people may be more sensitive to variations in medication than others. Amy Hasselkus suffers from an autoimmune disorder and during a flare up several years ago her pharmacy dispensed the generic form of her usual brand-name drug, Pred Forte. “It just didn’t work – the inflammation got worse and I had no relief,” she says. Hasselkus returned to her doctor for help. “[He] had to prescribe the brand-name drug for me, which worked.” While Hasselkus’ experience isn’t typical for most generics, Hutchison says it does happen. “If you and your provider believe you need the brand-name drug, your doctor can write ‘do not substitute’ on the prescription.”

If you’re considering switching from a brand-name to a generic drug here are some quick tips to help you along the way:

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if switching from a brand-name to a generic drug would be right for you considering your medical history;
  • Consult the Drugs@FDA registry to see if a generic version of your drug exists;
  • Ask your insurance company if they offer pharmacy or mail order discounts for switching to a generic drug;
  • If you aren’t able to switch to a generic drug, look for a coupon on the manufacturer’s website to help reduce your copay or coinsurance;
  • If you’re having difficulty affording your medication consider looking into assistance programs such as RxAssist to help reduce to the cost of your medication.
]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=how-generic-drugs-save-americans-3-billion-a-week/feed/ 0
Addressing public health abroad: Aggies team up to provide health services in Ecuador http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=addressing-public-health-abroad-aggies-team-up-to-provide-health-services-in-ecuador http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=addressing-public-health-abroad-aggies-team-up-to-provide-health-services-in-ecuador#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:00:44 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=24050 This summer, an interdisciplinary group of Aggies - composed of students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy - spent a week abroad providing basic health services to residents of Guamaní, Ecuador. ]]>

This summer, an interdisciplinary group of Aggies – composed of students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, College of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy – spent a week abroad providing basic health services to residents of Guamaní, Ecuador.

A small community of about 39,000 residents, Guamaní lies on the southern outskirts of the country’s capital, Quito. A relatively new, incorporated community, Guamaní deals with many public health issues including water, sewer, transportation, safe recreation and reliable trash removal. The students wasted no time getting to work, and within the first two hours, created:

  • a triage center for medical and dental attention;
  • a pharmacy center for filling prescriptions after seeing a doctor, nurse and/or dentist;
  • an education center to teach positive nutrition and health routines;
  • a child care center;
  • and a public health training and interview center.

Throughout the week, students worked with community residents and leaders to implement a community health assessment, conducted focus groups and visited with families to discuss what public health means to them. Additionally, residents participated in a photo voice exercise, walking the community, photographing and simultaneously commenting on health conditions in Guamaní.

“Being on the ground and learning directly from residents about the public health challenges in Guamaní really allowed us to apply what we’ve learned in the classroom,” said Evelia Castillo, a student in the Master of Public Health program. “Despite the challenges, the people are resilient and resourceful. They are already working to address many of the challenges that were documented. I hope the work we completed in collaboration with Guamaní residents can be used to amplify their current efforts.”

The data will be consolidated in a report and sent to Guamaní leaders and participants for their use in creating and implementing future community health development projects.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=addressing-public-health-abroad-aggies-team-up-to-provide-health-services-in-ecuador/feed/ 0
Texas A&M Health Science Center celebrates largest graduating class in history http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-health-science-center-celebrates-largest-graduating-class-in-history http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-health-science-center-celebrates-largest-graduating-class-in-history#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:18:59 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23639 Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 639 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences]]>

Graduates gig 'emAddressing the need for highly trained state and national health care professionals, Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 645 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences.

“As the health care landscape continues to grow and change, so do the needs of our patient populations, but one thing remains the same – the need for compassionate and skilled providers and leaders with a desire to serve,” said Paul E. Ogden, M.D., interim executive vice president and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “That desire to serve and the mindset of leading by example is innately Aggie, and is exactly what the members of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Class of 2015 embody as the next generation of health care professionals.”

Graduates for each college are as follows:

Texas A&M College of Medicine – 184 students received a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), 11 a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and one a Master of Science (M.S.) in Medical Sciences.

Since graduating its first class in 1981, the college has welcomed more than 2,200 Aggie Doctors to the work force, with 64 percent choosing to stay in Texas and half of all Texas A&M College of Medicine graduates entering into primary care. The College of Medicine also exceeds the national benchmark with a 97 percent pass rate on the national medical licensing exam.

Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry – 93 students received a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), 30 a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Dental Hygiene, 2 students receiving an additional PhD and 45 students with graduate’s degrees and certificates in specialty programs.

The college has the highest percent of under-represented minority students in the nation, and nearly one-third of all dentists in Texas are graduates of the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry.

Texas A&M College of Nursing – 112 students received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). Since its opening in 2008, the college has produced more than 500 nurses to help in addressing the state and nation’s critical nursing shortage. The Texas A&M College of Nursing holds special commendation status from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for pass rate excellence.

Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy – 84 students received a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The College of Pharmacy ranks in the Top 50 “Best Grad Schools for Pharmacy” by U.S. News & World Report, and to date, more than half of the college’s graduates remain in South Texas to practice.

Texas A&M School of Public Health – 45 students received a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), 35 a Master of Health Administration (M.H.A), two a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) and one a Doctor of Public Health (D.R.P.H.). The school ranks in the Top 25 “Best Grad Schools for Public Health” by U.S. News & World Report.

Texas A&M Health Science Center’s enrollment across its five colleges and eight statewide campus locations totaled 2,467 students in 2014.

Story by Jonathan Knechtel.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=texas-am-health-science-center-celebrates-largest-graduating-class-in-history/feed/ 0
Advil, Aleve and Tylenol: What’s the difference? http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=advil-aleve-and-tylenol-whats-the-difference http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=advil-aleve-and-tylenol-whats-the-difference#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 13:45:39 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23447 Advil, Aleve and Tylenol are all common over-the-counter pain-relievers and fever-reducers that are often viewed as interchangeable. However, there are certain situations when one medication may work better than the others. To help navigate when to choose which of these common over-the-counter medications, Dr. Potter offers some information about each pain and fever-reducer]]>

You wake up with a terrible headache, a sore muscle or yesterday’s sunburn is bothering you, and shuffle your way to your medicine cabinet. You open the cabinet, hoping to find something to help with the pain and discomfort, but find yourself faced with three choices: Advil, Aleve and Tylenol. Which one should you take? What are the differences to consider before taking?

“All of these pharmaceuticals are useful to treat pain and reduce fever, which is why they’re such common occurrences in households,” said David E. Potter, Ph.D., professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “However, there are some instances where one of these medicines may work better than its counterparts.”

To help navigate when to choose which of these common over-the-counter medications, Potter offers the following information about each pain and fever-reducer:

An assortment of red and white pills spread out over a white background.

Advil, Aleve and Tylenol are common over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers, but they shouldn’t always be used interchangeably.

Tylenol (acetaminophen)

Acetaminophen (Tylenol’s generic name) is a popular option for treating cold and flu-like symptoms, but Potter cautions that users need to be aware of how much they take in a day. Since acetaminophen is often combined with other over-the-counter cold medications that contain fever-reducing ingredients, people may end up taking multiple doses and exceeding the daily limitations.

“More than Advil and Aleve, Tylenol has a definite dosage ceiling of 325 milligrams per pill or capsule. Additionally, people should avoid taking more than 3000 milligrams per day, or they might begin to experience liver toxicity,” Potter warned.

People with liver disease, or who have consumed alcohol regularly, should be especially wary of the dosage they consume as unintentional overdosing can result in severe liver damage or even failure. Fortunately, these serious complications can be avoided if treated within 24 hours. Potter explains that the most common symptoms of acetaminophen overdose are lethargy (a sluggish state) and nausea or vomiting. If an individual exhibits these symptoms, they should seek medical attention within 24 hours, if possible.

Unlike its counterparts, acetaminophen does not possess any anti-inflammatory effects. For injuries like a sprain or discomfort from arthritis, Tylenol will not treat the pain as effectively as Advil or Aleve.

However, in the case of viral infections in young children and infants, acetaminophen’s can lower temperature effectively. In these situations, Tylenol is a better option to reduce fever than aspirin, Advil or Aleve. In all cases, be sure to adjust the dosage accordingly for the child’s age.

Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen sodium)

As far as anti-inflammatories go, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium have almost identical attributes. The main discriminating factors between the two are the active duration of each dose – Aleve is advertised as lasting almost four hours longer than Advil – and that naproxen causes a higher instance of photosensitivity (sensitivity to light).

For injuries or inflammatory symptoms, either ibuprofen or naproxen can both reduce inflammation or swelling and manage the pain. However, in the case of prolonged exposure to the sun or tanning, ibuprofen is probably a better alternative to naproxen.

Although most people have these medications or are aware of them, Potter suggests that not everybody should use these as their primary form of pain management.

“With ibuprofen and naproxen, there are higher incidences of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding or ulcers that can occur in people predisposed to peptic ulcer disease. When taking either medication, it’s recommended that individuals take them with food to help with any GI discomfort. People who are predisposed to GI disorders should generally try to avoid ibuprofen or naproxen so as not to exacerbate symptoms and damage to the intestinal lining,” Potter said.

So if you wake up with a headache, any one of the three will help manage pain. If you’re combatting sore muscles or arthritis, either ibuprofen or naproxen are your best bet to treat inflammation; and if that sunburn is bothering you, or you like to use suntan beds, stick with ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=advil-aleve-and-tylenol-whats-the-difference/feed/ 0
Shingles: What is it and why should I get vaccinated? http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=shingles-what-is-it-and-why-should-i-get-vaccinated http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=shingles-what-is-it-and-why-should-i-get-vaccinated#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23197 Almost one out of every three individuals will develop shingles during their lifetime, according to the CDC. Shingles, otherwise known as herpes zoster, causes a painful, blistering rash that can have complications that last for months or even years afterwards. However, shingles doesn’t have to be inevitable: there is a vaccine, Zostavax, recommended for anyone over the age of 60. ]]>

Almost one out of every three individuals will develop shingles during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shingles, otherwise known as herpes zoster, causes a painful, blistering rash that can have complications that last for months or even years afterwards. However, shingles doesn’t have to be inevitable: there is a vaccine, Zostavax, recommended for anyone over the age of 60.

Heather Miller, Pharm.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, provides additional information on shingles and the vaccine.

The symptoms

Since shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox (the varicella zoster virus), anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing the disease later in life.

“Shingles is a very painful virus that causes a rash that can last anywhere between two to four weeks and occurs when then varicella zoster virus reactivates within the body, usually at a later age when the immune system is compromised,” Miller said.

As opposed to chickenpox, the shingles rash usually only occurs in localized areas on one side of the body. While the rash itself appears similar to chickenpox, it is more painful, described as more of a burning, stabbing, aching sensation, along with the customary itchiness. If the rash occurs on the face, it can affect the eyes and even cause loss of vision.

Other symptoms that may accompany shingles are:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

If a person develops a painful rash and suspects shingles, they should see a health care professional as soon as possible, especially if the rash is large or near the eye. In addition, people with shingles should wash their hands frequently, keep the rash covered and avoid touching or scratching it to avoid spreading the virus. They should also avoid contact with pregnant women who have never had chickenpox, low birth weight infants and people with weakened immune systems. These groups are all at higher risk of contracting the virus.

After the rash goes away, some patients will still feel a similar burning or painful sensation, known as Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN). PHN can continue for months or even years after the actual virus is cured, and is more common in older patients.

Those at risk

Man scratching his arm

After a person has had chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus can remain dormant in their body and reactivate later as shingles.

After a person contracts the varicella zoster virus (the chickenpox virus), it can remain dormant in the body for decades before reactivating. Only those who have had the chickenpox virus can contract shingles. If an individual who never had chickenpox comes in contact with the shingles virus, they will contract chickenpox, not shingles.

“The main risk factor for developing shingles is a weakened immune system, which allows the shingles virus to activate. This naturally occurs with age, however other factors can contribute to a compromised immune system such as lack of sleep, poor diet or even stress,” Miller said.

The vaccine

Zostavax is approved for adults over 50 and is recommended for everyone 60 years or older. The vaccine is one-time shot that can help protect against the virus and reduce the chances and severity of complications. While it’s rare, individuals who have already had shingles can have a relapse. Those who have already had shingles should still be vaccinated as it can prevent another episode and help treat complications such as PHN.

The CDC estimates that 99 percent of adults 40 or older have had chickenpox. Even if a person doesn’t recall having chickenpox, they should still get the shingles vaccination, since it is highly likely they have come in contact with the virus. For those who have received the chickenpox vaccination, they are protected from contracting both chickenpox and shingles, even if they come in contact with the virus.

Since Zostavax uses a live virus, it is not recommended for people with compromised immune systems such as:

  • Those being treated for cancer with radiation or chemotherapy
  • Those who have HIV, AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
  • Anyone being treated with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids
  • Cancer patients with conditions that affect the bone marrow or lymphatic system
  • Pregnant women

For more information on the shingles virus and Zostavax, visit the CDC’s website.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=shingles-what-is-it-and-why-should-i-get-vaccinated/feed/ 0
Health Science Center announces 2015 Commencement ceremonies, speakers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23098 State and national healthcare leaders will address students graduating in medicine, nursing, public health, pharmacy and dentistry]]>

The Texas A&M Health Science Center will host its 2015 commencement ceremonies in May at locations across the state.14335732762_d3357a9745_k

The first ceremony will take place on Friday, May 8, when the College of Nursing holds its commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station. The featured speaker will be Janelle Shepard, B.S.N., M.B.A., senior director of care transitions for the Texas Health Alliance and a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Commencement ceremonies for the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health will be held in Rudder Auditorium on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony for School of Public Health graduates will begin at 9 a.m. and will feature James F. Sallis, Ph.D., distinguished professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and director of Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sallis is one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences, and has been featured in Time magazine as one of the four most effective scientists currently working to address America’s obesity problem.

The ceremony for College of Medicine graduates will begin at 2 p.m. and will feature Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Ling has launched several well-publicized projects at DARPA, including the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which is trying to develop a robotic human arm, and the PREVENT program, which focuses on blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). Prior to joining DARPA, Ling was an Army doctor and a professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is considered to be the Army’s premier subject matter expert on TBI and was one of the doctors who treated U.S. Sen. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011.

Thomas Menighan, Sc.D., MBA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, will be the featured speaker at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy’s commencement ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 2 p.m. in the Steinke Physical Education Center in Kingsville. Menighan has founded several pharmacy-related companies, including SynTegra Solutions Inc., SymRx Inc., and CornerDrugstore.com©.

Maxine Fienberg, D.D.S., president of the American Dental Association, will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony for the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, which will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

Admission to all commencement ceremonies is free and does not require a ticket. For additional information, visit the Texas A&M University commencement website.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers/feed/ 0
The pressure is on: Disaster Day teaches students how to work together in an emergency http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=the-pressure-is-on-disaster-day-teaches-students-how-to-work-together-in-an-emergency http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=the-pressure-is-on-disaster-day-teaches-students-how-to-work-together-in-an-emergency#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:57:02 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23042 More than 400 students from colleges throughout the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Blinn College participated in the 2015 edition of Disaster Day, an annual exercise designed to give future health care professionals experience working together in an emergency]]>

A rapidly moving wildfire had been making its way toward Bryan/College Station and finally hit around 2 a.m. It came from the south and engulfed two out of the three hospitals in the area. To make matters worse, winds sparked a fire in a gas tanker that was filling up a local gas station, causing a massive explosion that struck unsuspecting students standing outside a nearby high school.

Fortunately, at a local church, a team of about 200 medical professionals is standing by to help.

15_DisasterDay_093

More than 400 future health care professionals participated in the 2015 Disaster Day.

This was the scenario as students from colleges throughout the Texas A&M Health Science Center prepared to take part in the 2015 edition of Disaster Day, an annual exercise designed to give future health care professionals experience working together in an emergency. The event – which is one of the largest disaster simulations in the country – is planned and executed by students in the Texas A&M College of Nursing, with guidance from faculty members. The scenario was replayed in both the morning and afternoon to give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate.

In all, more than 400 future health care professionals participated in the event this year, including students from the Texas A&M College of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Public Health and Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, as well as nursing and radiology students from Blinn College. Approximately 700 community volunteers also participated, including about 200 high school students from Bryan and College Station.

The students gathered at Central Baptist Church in College Station, which in real life has been designated as an emergency relief center for Brazos County in the event of an emergency. Inside the church’s auxiliary building, rows of cots were neatly arranged in lettered rows and a pharmacy station was set up in the middle.

At the beginning of the exercise, the students all lined up against the walls to hear the scenario. Then they divided into teams and went to work treating volunteers who served as patients, all of whom were realistically made up to appear injured. Some patients were so convincing it was hard to tell it was just an exercise.

In Pod 1, first-year nursing student Micah Rimmer was part of a team that headed first to attend to a middle-aged woman who was having trouble breathing. Rimmer checked her pulse, while other members of the team took the woman’s blood pressure and temperature and checked her heart. The team administered oxygen to the woman and asked if there was anyone they could call for her.

On the next bed, a woman was lying down and holding her head as she screamed in pain. Her face was covered in soot. The team decided to order an EKG and gave her some Tylenol to help with the pain.

Suddenly, over in Pod 3 came a cry of “Code Blue,” one of five life-or-death cases the team working in that area had to deal with right off the bat, in addition to a woman giving birth. Despite performing CPR on the patient for 15 minutes, they lost him.

“He had intestinal bleeding and needed surgery, which we couldn’t provide,” explained Laurelyn Kramer, a senior nursing student who was taking part in her second Disaster Day exercise.

After administering CPR to the bleeding patient, Kramer’s team turned its attention to a firefighter who had come in with burns on his arm and was dizzy and weak. His blood pressure was low and his eyes had black circles under them from lack of sleep. The team also put him on oxygen and gave him some Tylenol.

On the next row over, a young girl was sitting on a cot with a fractured ankle. Kramer put her ankle in a splint and told the girl to go home, elevate the leg, and put ice on it. She told the girl she will need to go get a cast on the ankle in a few days once the crisis has passed. Kramer found some crutches for the girl and made sure she knew how to use them before she was discharged.

No sooner had the girl hobbled away on crutches than a woman with a burned hand walked in crying and in a panic because her friend was missing. A nursing student poured alcohol onto a gauze bandage and wrapped the hand, while another student went to try and find the woman’s friend.

The exercise went on for an hour and a half, during which each team had the opportunity to treat at least three patients. By the end of the exercise, trashcans scattered around the room were overflowing with gloves, used paper sheets and bandage packaging.

“This was a great experience,” said Micah Rimmer, the first-year nursing student who was working in Pod 1. Rimmer admitted to being anxious at the beginning of the exercise, but said it should help him when he gets to his coursework on acute care.

“No one died in our pod, so I couldn’t have done too badly,” he said.

Francis Onyebuchi, a third-year medical student who worked in Pod 3, said the exercise showed him how mentally prepared medical professionals need to be to work in such a crisis situation. “I was so stressed it was hard to think,” he said.

Onyebuchi said the exercise helped him learn the importance of communication and teamwork.

“Team management is what keeps patients alive,” he said.

 

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=the-pressure-is-on-disaster-day-teaches-students-how-to-work-together-in-an-emergency/feed/ 0
Q&A: An important step forward for Rx drug abuse http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=qa-an-important-step-forward-for-rx-drug-abuse http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=qa-an-important-step-forward-for-rx-drug-abuse#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 13:47:47 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22885 Every 25 seconds, someone loses their life to a prescription drug overdose; and in 2012, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death among 25-to-64 year olds. Pharmacist Bree Watzak discusses what the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy is doing to prepare students to combat prescription drug abuse that leads to overdoses, and what national initiatives are on the horizon]]>
Pharmacist filling a pill bottle.

Over the last decade, the number of prescription drug overdose deaths has quadrupled.

Every 25 minutes, someone loses their life to a prescription drug overdose; and in 2012, drug overdoses were the leading cause of injury death among 25-to-64 year olds. Americans abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin and hallucinogens combined, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and with overdose-related deaths continuing to soar upward in recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is attempting to put a stronger emphasis on treating the root of the problem.

In an effort to assist pharmacists as the last line of defense in curbing the epidemic, the CDC plans to improve data quality and surveillance to monitor and respond to the epidemic, strengthen state efforts by scaling up effective public health interventions, and supply health care providers with the data, tools and guidance needed to improve the safety of their patients. To do this, the CDC is requesting an increase of $54 million in 2016 to fund prescription drug overdose and heroin prevention efforts to all 50 states. We sat down with Bree Watzak, Pharm.D., BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and a practicing pharmacist in College Station, Texas, to find out more about prescription overdose and the CDC’s latest initiative.

Q: What programs are currently in place for prescription drug overdose monitoring?

A: There is a prescription drug-monitoring program in Texas, but it only applies to this state and is optional for providers to utilize this tool. For example, if I need to see whether a patient picked up a prescription in Louisiana, I would have to get authorization to check Louisiana’s database, which is obviously burdensome for pharmacists and physicians alike. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has been working to link all 50 states so that pharmacists in Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma don’t have to check three separate databases. A database spanning the entire country will help health care providers reduce inappropriate prescribing by allowing physicians to weed out those patients who may have addiction problems, seeking drugs for which there is no legitimate medical need. Ultimately, this would reduce the number of inappropriate prescriptions and diminish the overall risk of overdose. The CDC is hoping to establish – and link – drug-monitoring programs in all 50 states.

Q: What is currently being done to help those who are addicted?

A: This is an area that needs further development. Given the structure of the health care system, it is very difficult for prescribers and pharmacists to screen patients for potential drug abuse. This is due to the high volume of patients seen everyday, oftentimes in settings that don’t afford much privacy.

As educators, we train future physicians and pharmacists to recognize the signs and symptoms of addiction, but it is often difficult to put into practice. Each hospital and pharmacy has its own guidelines for screening patients, but the CDC is establishing new and more uniform standards. Having well-established guidelines will help pharmacists and prescribers recognize and stop abuse more often.

Q: What will the CDC initiative ultimately do?

A: Some strategies recommended by the CDC are implementation of innovative insurance programs, state-run databases that track prescriptions to determine any over-prescribing problems and public health outreach programs aimed at educating physicians, pharmacists and the public about prescription overdose.

Part of the CDC’s initiative is to encourage insurance companies to provide payment for addiction treatments. Currently, most insurance policies don’t cover the cost for recovery, causing people to pay for treatments out-of-pocket and take time off from work. However, many employers do not allow time off for such instances, causing some to lose their jobs while getting treated. It’s a terrible cycle, which the CDC is hoping to end by implementing innovative insurance.

Additionally, expanding the prescription drug-monitoring program to all 50 states will allow pharmacists to track potential high-risk patients. Currently, 49 states and Washington, D.C., each have monitoring programs; however, each monitoring program is independent of those in other states. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is trying to create a comprehensive monitoring program that will make it easier for pharmacists to monitor potential abusers across state boundaries, decreasing the chance for abuse.

Educating the public is a critical step as nearly 110 Americans die every day from drug-related overdoses, and about half of those overdoses are related to opioids. More than two-thirds (70 percent) of people who misuse prescription painkillers for the first time report obtaining the drugs from friends or relatives, including from the home medicine cabinet; these incidences can be somewhat minimized through public education and awareness. The CDC is in the process of developing public health programs and campaigns to spread awareness.

Q: Will these initiatives and policies make it more difficult for patients to obtain prescriptions?

A: Physicians and pharmacists are trying to preserve opioids for people who have legitimate pain and not let them get into the hands of people who are abusing them. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), responding to the 2012 Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, reclassified hydrocodone combination medications in October from Schedule III to Schedule II.  Schedule III drugs are defined as drugs with moderate to low potential for abuse, whereas Schedule II drugs are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse. The goal is that people who legitimately need medications for pain still receive it, but those who were simply abusing the opioids will find them more difficult to obtain.

A: Are pharmacy students being taught methods to alleviate prescription drug overdoses?

A: Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy has multiple avenues for preparing students to combat prescription drug abuse that leads to overdoses. One example is an elective rotation in substance abuse at the South Texas Substance Abuse Recovery Services in Corpus Christi. Students who take this course gain an appreciation of the disease model of drug addiction. This six-week rotation gives students a glimpse of the other side of drug addiction: the illicit use of both prescription and street drugs.

There are many opportunities for Texas A&M pharmacy students to learn the signs of potential addicts or distributors of prescription drugs, and what to do should they suspect a patient is abusing prescriptions, but this training is not mandatory to receive their pharmacology license. Part of the CDC’s initiative will certainly involve more training and screening guidelines for both pharmacists and prescribers.

Watzak teaches drug addiction courses and takes Texas A&M pharmacy students to a week-long program on alcoholism and other drug dependencies at the University of Utah School of Medicine each summer.

]]>
http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=qa-an-important-step-forward-for-rx-drug-abuse/feed/ 0