Tuesday’s Reads: Profiles in Community Pharmacy; New Drug Safety Approach Proposed

By Kevin Schweers

Community pharmacists are important pillars in the health care network and in their local area. Massachusetts and Minnesota news outlets profile two such individuals. A new approach to post-market drug safety is proposed. And Dow Jones and others report on the call by NCPA and several consumer and privacy groups for a federal investigation into alleged patient privacy violations by CVS Caremark.

Excerpts of and links to these stories are available below:

Pharmacist saves small-town store

By Matthew Stolle
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

RUSHFORD — For the second time in the last year, Rushford businessman Tom Witt has swooped in and bought a small-town pharmacy that faced possible closure.

His latest purchase is the La Crescent Pharmacy operated by Franciscan Skemp Healthcare. Last August, the Franciscan network sent out a letter declaring its intent to close the drug store. Witt intervened, purchasing it for an undisclosed sum.
Witt, who has operated pharmacies in the area since 1996, admits it’s a gamble and that the forces working against small-town pharmacies are formidable.

Read the story here.

Duval’s Pharmacy depends on personal touch to survive

By Maureen Mccarthy, Wicked Local (Whitman, Mass.)

WHITMAN – During the early 1940s, Brockton resident Howard Duval had a dream of saving up enough money one day to open his own community pharmacy in Whitman’s town center.

In 1946, he and his son, John H. Duval Jr., and nephew, Buzz Perry, did just that.
Now more than six decades later, Duval’s Pharmacy Inc., at Washington Street and South Avenue, still embraces a sense of community as it bucks the trend of giant chain drugstores.

“I hear a lot of stories from older people where they (original owners) would come out in the middle of the night or cancel old bills. They just cared,” said third-generation Duval’s Pharmacy owner John Duval III of his predecessors. “That is why we have been successful for over 60 years.”

Duval’s is a rarity nowadays — a family-owned pharmacy amid dueling chain pharmacies on busy corners with discount retail giants Wal-Mart and Target entering the business.
The Whitman establishment offers the personal touch.

“We truly care about each person that walks in and hope they are satisfied when they walk out,” said Duval.

Read the story here.

Public Database Is Urged to Monitor Drug Safety

By NATASHA SINGER, The New York Times

What could be done to prevent another Vioxx? This pain medication for arthritis became a blockbuster after its introduction in 1999, only to be taken off the market in 2004 when a study linked the drug to an increased risk of heart attack and strokes.

A new study published Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine offers an ambitious proposal to determine a drug’s risks sooner than they might otherwise become evident. The authors propose a system to examine widely prescribed drugs through safety analyses that would pool data as they emerge from various clinical trials of a medication and aggregate the information for a fuller picture of a drug’s harms and benefits.

As policy makers in Washington push for various forms of evidence gathering to determine the safety and effectiveness of medical treatments, the study proposes a broad model for monitoring drug safety that would consist of detailed publicly available data that independent researchers could freely analyze.

Such a database could be continually updated and aggregated with new information, as the results of new studies were published, to calculate a near real-time balance sheet of a drug’s risks and benefits.

Read the story here.

Groups Target CVS Caremark, Seek Privacy Violation Probe

By Dinah Wisenberg Brin, DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

Consumer advocates and a national pharmacists’ group have asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate possible violations of U.S. health-privacy rules by CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS), the combined drug retailer and pharmacy benefits manager.

The FTC already is probing CVS Caremark’s business practices after lawmakers and the National Community Pharmacists Association raised concerns, including allegations the company improperly used patient data from its pharmacy-benefit operation to steer customers into its CVS drug stores.

The NCPA and other groups added to their complaints in a letter dated last Friday to the FTC and HHS’ civil rights office that accused CVS Caremark of violating patient privacy laws–the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and more recent provisions–by using protected patient information from health plans and competing pharmacies to channel customers into CVS drug stores. The company used the data to fashion letters to make patients switch to a CVS pharmacy for long-term medications, the groups say.

Read the story here.

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