I Donated Blood Today

I donated blood today. It was my first time. I highly recommend it. After doing some research on blood donations for a class, I realized that the blood supply is a serious concern. It was a bit eye opening how few people actually donate blood, and how much blood is needed. I’m always looking for a way to improve myself and become a better person, and this fits me perfectly. Have you ever considered donating blood?

It doesn’t cost you anything but a little time (it takes less than an hour). And it will go to help someone and possibly save a life. There are no drawbacks to it. You probably won’t feel any different - you won’t even know you lost any blood, and your body will replenish it very quickly. Blood is effectively a renewable resource.

And yet so few people do it. 38% percent of Americans are eligible to donate blood, but less than 10% of those who are eligible actually do. That’s 10 million Americans who donate, but another 90 million eligible donors who don’t. In one particular study that I read, 40% of people age 18-29 (the healthiest and most eligible potential donors) who didn’t donate said they would, but nobody ever asked them.

I’m asking you now - will you donate blood? It will help someone who needs it. It is truly giving life to someone. Consider it please.

Zyflamend Flying Off the Shelves

Recently our owner had a doctor friend of his contact him about Zyflamend. He had our store manager call around to some of the large chains and even a few other pharmacies to see if they were carrying Zyflamend and how much they had it for. He then had us price it so that we undercut everybody. The doctor, a urologist, was happy because he was going to send all his customers to us to buy it, rather than the big chains.

The stuff has been flying off the shelf since we started carrying it. It might be our single best-selling over-the-counter product (Zyflamend has been a top-selling product for the last year or so, why we just started carrying it now is a whole different story). So, I had to find out a little more about it.

Zyflamend is an herbal anti-inflammatory. It’s used for a lot of different conditions. Its best use is for general health, boosting inflammation response, promoting bone and joint health, overall circulatory health and healthy aging. So many conditions begin with inflammation, from prostate and breast cancer to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and allergies, that Zyflamend appears to be a good herbal supplement for just about anybody.

Inhumana (Humana) Tactics

The latest antics of Inhumana (on the heels of a similar stunt by Caremark/CVS) was to send our customers a letter saying that we (an independent pharmacy) no longer carried their insurance and they would have to go elsewhere to get their medications. We’ve seen copies of this letter that customers have brought to us, so we know it’s real. In fact there was also a followup letter.

It was never true, of course, our contract with Humana was always intact. Our president called Humana to ask them about it and of course they denied, denied and denied. At least one of our customers called Humana to complain to them (pretty forcefully too), but does any of that do any good? There would have to be thousands of customers complaining and maybe going further like cancelling policies before it would make a difference. We could launch a lawsuit which Inhumana, with its army of attorneys, could drag out for years and it would cost a fortune that our small independent pharmacy does not have.

So, these are the tactics that large insurance companies use to get customers to switch out of local pharmacies and start getting their medications from their own mail-order pharmacies. And there’s really nothing we can do about it.

The Fun Never Stops With Medication Names

I don’t make fun of people who mispronounce medication names, because they can be difficult, even for us in the business. But I do find what people come up with to be really entertaining sometimes.

Like the time a customer asked for their refill of Splenda. That’s right. They meant Plendil, of course, but it will always be Splenda to me.

Amoxicillin gives people some trouble. Amoximillin and Amoximillian are popular, but my favorite is Amoxacillian - I’ll take two slices and a coke.

Not a medication, but one of my all-time favorites is when a customer couldn’t remember the name of the medication he wanted refilled for his wife, but it started with an ‘r.’ When asked what it was for, he couldn’t remember what that was called either, but he referred to it as the Creepy Crawlies. A question or two later and we narrowed it down - Requip for her Restless Leg Syndrome. But, I like Creepy Crawlies better.

The Pseudoephedrine Database Begins

We’ve started to implement the Pseudoephedrine database. Let me explain. When someone comes in to buy an OTC product that has pseudoephedrine in it (like Claritin D or Sudafed), we have to take their drivers license (or other ID) and put it into a database along with what medication they are buying. This is done in order to track sales of pseudoephedrine products in order to combat the illegal manufacturing of crystal meth, which gets some of its key ingredients from pseudoephedrine products.

It’s almost like creating a new drug class. You can buy it over the counter, but you have to provide your ID and get tracked in a database. Here in Florida, we don’t even have a database to track users of controlled substances like hydrocodone, or narcotics like oxycodone. Even though Florida is the worst state in the country for oxycodone-related deaths, it’s more important that we watch Mrs. Smith very closely when she gets some Sudafed. Where’s the common sense?

CVS/Caremark Tactics

Recently, CVS/Caremark has sent out letters to our customers saying that they could get three-month supplies of their medications cheaper if they got them through their mail-order pharmacy rather than our independent pharmacy. Some of our customers showed us the letters they have received. This is completely illegal.

When Mrs. Smith brings us her prescription and we run it through her insurance as we fill it, the insurance company approves the prescription and supplies our pharmacy software with the copay and the label prints automatically. This is all industry standard and completely normal. So, the copay printed on the label is exactly what the insurance company wants the customer to pay, and our software will show us exactly what we are going to be reimbursed. The copay is legally supposed to be the same no matter what pharmacy fills the prescription.

Along comes mail-order pharmacies. Buying your medications from a mail-order pharmacy is not a problem. If it makes sense to you as a customer, and it’s cheaper for you, then great. But, when the insurance company owns the mail-order pharmacy, it becomes a problem. It’s a fuzzy area - conflict of interests and all that - but when the insurance company starts telling its customers what pharmacy to use (ie the pharmacy that they own) it becomes more than a problem, it becomes illegal.

An insurance company can’t tell you what pharmacy to use, and they can’t legally charge you a higher copay through one pharmacy (that they don’t own) than they charge you at another pharmacy (that they do own). This is why the Caremark/CVS merger should probably be illegal.

But money talks. Look up how many politicians are on the payroll from large insurance companies/retail pharmacy chains/pharmaceutical companies. And what would it cost for my independant pharmacy to combat CVS/Caremark legally? Too much. Which is why we, or any other indie pharmacy, can’t do it. And that’s why, eventually, we will go out of business, and all there will be left will be large corporate chains.

Got My Flu Shot

I got my flu shot today. Although I am technically on vacation from work, I stopped by because we were giving out flu shots today. I never really got a flu shot before I started working in a pharmacy. But after seeing so many people coming in with colds and flus, especially since we are across the street from a hospital, I realized we really are on the ‘front lines’ when it comes to viruses. So, I started last year and I will continue. Now, this is for the regular season flu, not for the H1N1 or Swine Flu which is a whole different animal. That vaccine is not even available yet. All I know is, I see prescriptions for Tamiflu regularly and I don’t want the flu of any variety. I highly recommend to anyone working in a pharmacy to go ahead and get your seasonal flu shot. My health insurance (which I get through my job) paid for it, so I really had no excuse not to get it. But, I think I would even if I had to pay the $20 or $30 for it.

Pharmacy Technician CE’s

I just recently got my notice that it’s time to renew my certification. So, I’m going over my CE’s to see exactly what I have and what I need. This looks like a good time to share some sites that offer CE’s for pharmacy technicians.

Make sure you know what requirements you need with the PTCB or pharmacy board of your state. For example, you may be required to have some credits in pharmacy law, I know I need 2. It will state in the CE documentation if it meets certain requirements.

I haven’t exactly had a hard time finding some decent ones, but I did have to do some searching. All of these are reputable, some (possily all of these) offer free CE’s, but some have a fee.


More Medication Misnomers

I always enjoy when customers mangle medication names. I understand, as many of these names don’t exactly roll off the tongue and some of them are real tongue-twisters. So I’m not making fun of them (at least not entirely). And let’s be honest, even the clerks, techs and pharmacists can do a number on a few of them.

These few below are pretty common - switching places between two letters in the name.

Coudamin = Coumadin
Fonisopril = Fosinopril
Panatol = Patanol
Fenofexadine = Fexofenadine

These are all actual mix-ups from customers or clerks. But I have to make two key points (and these are also from customers) - 10/160 does not equal 170 and Prevacid is not a toothpaste (Prevident).

State of Oxycodone

There was a recent article in the newspaper here in Sarasota Florida about the serious problem of prescription drugs being abused. It noted that the state of Florida is the highest per capita state for overdose deaths, and that Sarasota county was twice the state average. Also noteworthy was that of the 50 top oxycodone prescribing doctors, all of them were in the state of Florida.

Clearly, it is exactly because of these statistics that we have had our recent shortages of oxycodone and subsequent flood of calls looking for inventory. The DEA is not sitting still on this and most likely the state will take some actions as well. Unfortunately, as usual, legitimate customers and pharmacy personnel are caught right in the middle.