World News Wrapup: 11 July 2019

Trump drug price reveal bill defeated; Boots launches new system to show patients and GPs their medicine stock, and how pharmacy vets save lives

Washington DC, US: A federal judge has struck down the Trump Administration’s plan to force pharmaceutical companies to put drug price lists in TV ads.

The decision, delivered by District Court Judge Amit Mehta, came only a day before the measure was due to come into effect, reported industry newsletter Fierce Pharma.

Jude Mehta ruled that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not have the statutory authority to adopt the rule.

Manufacturers Merck and Lilly, who initiated the action against the bill, both said in statements that they were pleased with the ruling.

“We believe strongly in providing patients and their caregivers the meaningful information they need to make informed healthcare decisions. That is why we initiated this action,” Merck said. 

“We are committed to working with stakeholders across the health care system to find better solutions for the larger issue, namely, lowering out-of-pocket costs for Americans who still struggle to pay for their medicines,” Lilly added.

The ruling is a blow to the Trump administration, which now has the ball in its court, Fierce Pharma said. The Department can file an appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals, or possibly even directly to the Supreme Court. Also looming are the president’s recent promises that he will issue executive orders to lower drug prices. 

UK: Leading UK pharnacy chain Boots is aiming to use its patient medication record (PMR) system to allow patients, and eventually GPs, to see the multiple’s stock of medicine in each of its pharmacies before ordering repeat prescriptions.

Stephen Watkins, director of items at Boots and who is also heading up the multiple’s digital transformation, said the system — known as Columbus — will be rolled out to 1,000 pharmacies by the end of August, said The Pharmaceutical Journal

Columbus will create a centralised medication record of Boots’s patients, as well as a centralised inventory of medicine stock. Watkins said he hopes that patients will be able to see stock levels when they order medicines through the pharmacy’s app.

Boots launched its online repeat prescription service on 24 May 2019, which it said would link to a patient’s GP record from this month.

Watkins said the GP link functionality would allow patients “to see the mirror image of their patient medication record” on the app and order repeat medication directly from the record. The order would then be put straight into the GP’s workflow to approve.

“That will help to speed up the journey from a patient perspective, but also from a pharmacy perspective as well,” he said.

“We also believe it will help from an efficiency perspective with GPs.”

Namibia: Pharmacists can play a vital role in public education about the dangers of eating unhealthy or drug-affected meat in the largely meat-eating south west African country a leading pharmacist believes.

Pharmacist Vetjaera Haakuria told The Guardian that in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital, everyone from construction workers to members of parliament will eat grilled meat from the large markets. His own tribe, the Herero, traditionally eat nothing else but meat.

However, regulation is patchy and the meat being sold at markets could contain anything from antibiotics to parasites, Haakuria says. Diseases that pass from livestock to humans are rife in the country’s rural north.

Animals that die from unknown causes are eaten, no questions asked. Last year more than 50 people were hospitalised in north-western Namibia after contracting anthrax that had probably entered a goat flock from infected wildlife.

While most small-scale farmers are able to access basic veterinary drugs such as antibiotics and dewormers over the counter at agri-stores or human pharmacies, few are told how to administer them safely.

While he is currently the country’s only specialist veterinary pharmacist, the University of Namibia teaches all its pharmacy students a bit of veterinary pharmacy.

But starting next year, it will offer a postgraduate specialist course on the subject. It is only the second such course in the world. The first opened its doors at the UK’s Harper Adams University a decade ago.

“Part of the training will be around animal health and husbandry,” says Alison Pyatt, who runs Harper Adams’s postgraduate course, and who is helping to set up its Namibian counterpart. Graduates from these courses do not replace vets, she explains.

But they are able to go out into farming communities and advise people on how to keep their animals, and themselves, healthy.

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