New Antibiotic Guidelines

Howdy readers!

Big news today in the world of antibiotic medications. A new publication by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is suggesting that patients may not need to take an entire course of antibiotics anymore to be cured of their illness. One of the first things that they teach you about counseling in pharmacy school is that you must encourage all patients to finish their entire course of antibiotics, even if they are feeling better, to ensure total microbial annihilation.

On the flip side, we also hear about antibiotic resistance. In these cases, our bodies become so immune to the magic of antibiotics, that they simply don’t work the way they should anymore. Therefore, the bacterial/parasitic germs aren’t able to be killed, and continue to make us sicker. Normally, antibiotic resistance is not to be worried about, unless there is misuse or overuse of antibiotics. It is not the person who becomes resistant to the antibiotic medication. Rather, it is the bacteria in our bodies that become resistant to the medication, changing in such a way that it is no longer killed by the antibiotic and instead continues to grow and multiply. Antibiotic resistance is a scary thing – simple bacterial infections that were once easily treated with a course of antibiotics could becoming life-threatening.

Resistance has become a serious problem today. Patients are too scared to take antibiotics that they need. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe antibiotics under a trial and error basis for an unknown microbial cause, for fear of causing a resistance. These are all very serious and legitimate concerns, but sometimes, antibiotics are a must. With the new antibiotic guidelines published by JAMA, doctors and researchers claim that “Shorter is Better”. As with any medication, the shorter you have to take it, the more likely a patient is to stay adherent or continue taking it as prescribed. A shorter course of antibiotics may also help to prevent bacterial resistance from occurring as quickly or as often as it does now. As a disclaimer, patients should always take their medication as prescribed by their doctor, especially an antibiotic. The article in JAMA states that patients may no longer need to continue taking antibiotics past the time of symptom relief. If patients no longer feel the need to continue their antibiotics, they should always talk to their doctor and ask if continued therapy is advised.

This is a very interesting development in the world of medicine. It just goes to show you how fast and dynamic pharmacy is! I just saw on social media how some of my newly graduated Pharm.D friends are scrambling to advise patients in line with the new guidelines, which are completely different from what they spent 4 years learning in school!

Until next time,

:)Lauren

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Common Pharmacy Myths – Debunked

The Princesses of Professional School Blog (1)

Hi all!

Today, I wanted to write about some of the most common pharmacy-related myths that I’ve heard. With some of these myths, you may already know the truth, but for others, maybe you might learn something new!

“All a pharmacist does is count pills all day.”

False, false, false, and more false. You may often only see a pharmacist counting pills day in and day out, but that is certainly not the extent of their daily duties. Especially now. Health care is changing at a very rapid rate, and the pharmacists’ role is changing and expanding with it. Pharmacists today must receive prescriptions over the phone from the doctor, verify every single prescription after it is filled before it is handed off to the patient, spend hours each day on the phone with various insurance companies, counsel patients on new medications, offer over-the-counter recommendations for patients who seek their help, give immunizations, preform blood pressure checks and other various physical assessments, and on top of all that, do anything and everything else that the other pharmacy staff is not able to do.

 “Brand name medications work better than their generic form.”

Actually, generic medications work just as well as the brand name ones do. Some medications do not have a generic form, and therefore, the brand name must be dispensed. Some patients request the brand name medication, even if there is a cheaper, generic form available. This is due to a variety of reasons, but largely due to the misconception that brand name drugs provide a better response. Before a generic drug is even allowed to appear on the market, the FDA must prove that the medication is identical in chemical identity, strength, quality, potency, and purity to the brand name counterpart. I have heard the complaint that some generic drugs produce some unwanted side effects, while the brand name doesn’t. This is not due in part to anything about the active drug – this could have something to do with one of the inactive drug components or fillers present in the medication.

“Vitamins and other natural supplements are safe to take.”

The majority of the products in the vitamin and supplement aisle are actually not approved by the FDA, nor do they have to be. Some brands of products opt to participate in a voluntary quality assurance program by the USP (United States Pharmacopeia), where the supplements undergo very rigorous testing standards. Brands that do participate in this program are NatureMade, Kirkland Signature (Costco brand), TruNature, and others. With this verification, the USP has concluded that the product inside the bottle is what the label says it is – the correct amount of supplement in each tablet or capsule and has been manufactured under safe and sanitary conditions. Look for the USP verified mark on the bottle, which looks like THIS.

It is also important to mention that vitamins and supplements have the potential to interact with the prescription medications that you take. It is important to inform your doctor or pharmacist of the natural products that you regularly take, in order to prevent any harmful effects.

“It’s okay to share my prescription medication with a loved one if they have the same condition or symptoms as I do.”

This is never okay. Doctors prescribe specific medications at specific strengths, personalized for your specific condition or illness. Although someone may have the same symptoms as you do – you may even have 100% certainty that you know what ails them – giving them a prescription medication that was meant for you may have a negative impact on them. The other person may have a medication allergy that you don’t know about. They may be taking a medication or supplement that has a serious interaction with the drug you are offering to share with them. So, just don’t give someone else your prescriptions. It can do more harm than good.

“I don’t feel any different when I take my medication, therefore it’s not important for me to take it every day.”

Surprisingly, this is something that patients often say. Not all medications will make you feel differently, but that does not mean that they are not working. Always take your medication as instructed, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. For example, it is important to always take your blood pressure or cholesterol medication so that those conditions do not get any worse – but you more than likely will not notice any changes in the way you feel while taking them.

“The bathroom cabinet is the safest place for my medication to be stored.”

We’ve all seen the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. We think this is the safest place to keep medications away from small children or pets. We think this is the most convenient place to store them, because it’s easier to remember to take them when they are in the room where we begin and end our days. In reality, the bathroom storage cabinet may not be safe at all. Hot steam from the shower can actually decrease your medication’s efficacy, meaning they may not work the way they are supposed to if they are not kept in the correct temperature conditions. Instead, keep medication in a kitchen pantry or cabinet, or maybe on a night table.

“Taking birth control pills and antibiotics together will reduce the birth control’s efficacy.”

Common misconception. There is only one antibiotic that renders the pill to be less effective, and this is rifampin.

“Everyone who works in a pharmacy is qualified to answer my questions.”

There are many different employees that work behind a pharmacy counter – pharmacy interns who are in pharmacy school, pharmacy technicians who have completed a certification program to work in a pharmacy, and of course the pharmacist. I would advise against asking just anyone behind the pharmacy counter about your medication questions. The most trusted source is the pharmacist, for all questions. I have personally seen some pharmacy technicians trying to answer questions way out of their realm of knowledge, and sending patients away with false information and wrong recommendations. This is not to say that all pharmacy technicians don’t know what they are talking about – this isn’t true at all. Just be wary of who you are getting information from, and if you need further information or clarification, don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacist. It is your health, or your loved one’s health we are talking about here!

Thanks for reading! I hope I was able to pass some useful information along to our readers!

Until next time,

:)Lauren

 

Future of Smoking Cessation

Howdy!

Ah, smoking cessation — a crucial intervention to be done by the pharmacist, yet one of the most awkward  and dreaded patient encounters you can imagine. Nobody wants to be cursed by a man (or woman) low on their nicotine.

Actual smoking cessation is not what I wanted to talk about today. Rather, it is the new methods of smoking cessation that I find most interesting.

An interesting study was done in late February about the effectiveness of text-message based smoking cessation. Now, if you’re anything like me, you might actually write that study off as bogus right away. Who wants constant, annoying text messages that are reminding you to take a break from your daily nicotine fix(es)? Who wants a faceless “person” telling them what not to do?

I did read the study and found the results to be shocking. 26% of the test group and 15% of the control group actually reported an 8 week period of smoking cessation all together after beginning the text message program. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, these results are actually comparable to the quit rates seen while using traditional methods of smoking cessation such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, etc. I don’t know about you, but those results are pretty staggering for a text message program.

If people can use a simple text message program to quit smoking, what else can we do with this kind of technology? How else can we integrate our cell phones, laptops, iPads, and other technologies with programs and apps that are developed with our health in mind? People use health based technology very regularly – those people who check the WebMD Symptom Checker to try and self diagnose their latest ailment (and end up regretting it because WebMD always tells you that you’re having a medical emergency), those people who use their phones or FitBits to track their steps and activities every day, calorie counting apps, the list could go on and on. Why not create specific text message programs, like the smoking cessation service, that provides daily encouragement, support, and friendly reminders for those with a specific disease state or those trying to make positive lifestyle modifications? Not to mention, these text message programs are free (standard data rates may apply) as opposed to traditional methods of self-improvement.

Do you like what you’re reading? Find out more information HERE.

If you’d like to check out the study yourselves, you can find it HERE.

I hope you guys find this as interesting as I do. Technology can be detrimental, but used correctly, it can lead us to better health.

Till next time,

:)Lauren

Lowering Blood Pressure: The Natural Way

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Good morning!

The new year has begun, and you know what that means…new year, new you! I am not crazy about resolutions for the new year, but what better time then the present to make small changes in your lifestyle for your cardiovascular health?

Some people are able to completely change their lives, their exercise habits, and their diet at the drop of a hat, in the name of good health. I am not one of those people. I know that it’s tough to make lifestyle changes, especially when we are busy with school, work, sleep, and everything else that life throws at us. We have to remember that even the smallest of changes can amount to a big health benefit!

Blood pressure is one of those things that we all struggle with – it fluctuates all day long due to our stress levels, lack of sleep, our poor eating habits, smoking habits, lack of physical activity and even depends on things we can’t control such as a our age. The majority of people have to take blood pressure medication for these reasons. Did you know that blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer”? This is because uncontrolled high blood pressure can actually lead to serious health issues, such as a heart attack or stroke. Anything that we are able to do that helps to lower our blood pressure is a good thing for our overall health. After doing a little bit of research, I have come up with 4 “no excuses!” ways that every one can lower their blood pressure, the natural way.

Get enough sunlight.

Yes it’s winter, and yes it’s cold. But, this is one of the easiest ways to help to naturally lower your blood pressure. When our bodies receive Vitamin D directly from UV light, our blood vessels expand, which helps to pump more blood throughout our bodies, and in turn, lower our blood pressure. Since this only works with direct sunlight, you will not get this benefit from popping a Vitamin D supplement from the drug store. Research says that sunlight for 20 minutes/day will help to lower blood pressure. Take a walk at lunch time, or spend some time outdoors taking down your holiday decorations.

Spice up your life!

There are many different herbs and spices out there, and they actually don’t just make our food taste better — there are serious health benefits that come with them! Using as little as half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has shown cardiovascular health benefits. Try it on your oatmeal in the morning or perhaps put a little in your coffee! Another herb to try is basil.  Try adding a small bit to your pasta or soup! It doesn’t hurt that basil also has antioxidant properties!

Switch your snacks.

I am a real sugar junkie. And I am also really particular about what I eat. You can see how it would be kind of hard for me to find a healthy, yet satisfying way to snack. A few things that I recommend trying: dark chocolate naturally dilates blood vessels due to flavonoids, tree nuts that are full of heart-healthy fats (cashews, almonds, pistachios), and foods that are high in potassium (bananas and baked potatoes — disclaimer, do not make your baked potato devoid of all health benefits by putting too much salt and butter on it!).

Get moving!

With just 30 minutes of exercise a day, you can help to lower your blood pressure. And by exercise, I mean even a brisk walk will do the trick. Anything that gets your heart pumping could work. Take that brisk walk after dinner, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park a little farther away in the parking lot when you go to the store. The more you are moving around, the better!

The above list really isn’t hard to incorporate into your everyday life, if you just give it a shot! Trust me — if I can do it, so can you. When it comes to your heart, prevention is everything. Don’t let life (or laziness!) get in the way of your health.

:)Lauren

For Those Holiday Headaches…

The holiday season is fast approaching. What does that mean? It means our days will inevitably be filled with more stress from work, from last minute shopping, from finding the perfect Christmas tree, and a million other things that need to be finished in time.

For those annoying holiday headaches, I have put together a bit of information that I learned last semester to 1. help to diagnose your kind of headache and 2. find the best OTC analgesic to use (OTC is Over-The-Counter, and analgesic is a pain medication).


What Kind of Headache Do I Have?

  • Tension- Usually located on both sides of the head, with pain mainly affecting the top of the head (but could radiate down to the neck of sides of the head). You may be experiencing tightness or an aching feeling in the scalp.
  • Migraine – Usually only affects one side of the head. These kinds of headaches are usually accompanied by nausea/vomiting and a sensitivity to lights and sounds. The pain is more throbbing in nature.
  • Sinus – The pain will usually be felt on the face, forehead and/or behind the eyes. These kinds of headaches are usually due to nasal congestion.

*Disclaimer 1 – Migraines are very common, and there are medications made specifically for this kind of headache over the counter, but if you find yourself having several of these severe kinds of headaches without any relief, you should no longer self treat and you should get diagnosed by a doctor.


 

What Options Are Available For Me?

The pain reliever aisle in the pharmacy can be awfully confusing, even for pharmacy students. There are about 50 different products, but the funny thing is, they all contain 1 of 3 main pain killers. So, they really aren’t different at all, they just vary by brand.

The three major pain killers are: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin. All of these options exist over the counter, yet some options are not appropriate for everyone.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Acetaminophen is usually the “go-to” medication, because it is safe in most populations. Acetaminophen can be used for mild-moderate pain and also for fever relief. This pain reliever can be used safely while pregnant. You should not take over 4 g/day (4000 mg). Do not take if you have consumed over 3 alcoholic beverages in a day. Be aware that continued use of this medication over a long period of time, or use with alcoholic beverages can increase your risk of liver damage.

Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)

Ibuprofen is an NSAID, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug; this means that it can be used for mild-moderate pain, fever relief, and also inflammation. Stomach upset may occur while taking this class of medication; ibuprofen taken with food, milk or antacids may help these symptoms. Taking NSAIDs can increase your risks of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, stomach bleeding or heart failure.

Aspirin 

To be honest, I would never recommend aspirin for a pain reliever. But, it is in the aisle with the other pain relievers, so I will mention a little about it. Aspirin is a salicylate. Low dose aspirin is usually indicated for heart health. The maximum amount of aspirin to be taken is 4 g/day, but up to 6 g/day is needed to achieve pain relief. So, therefore it isn’t really worth taking for pain purposes. If you do choose to take aspirin, be aware that it is an antiplatelet drug — your blood cells have more trouble forming blood clots. This can affect those taking any blood thinners, patients with diabetes, patients with gout, etc.

*Disclaimer 2 – Not all headaches can be treated over the counter. As a matter of fact, some groups of people cannot be treated over the counter at all. Exclusions to self-care are as follows: an undiagnosed migraine, headaches lasting over 10 days with no relief, severe symptoms or head pain, pregnant women in their last trimester of pregnancy, children under the age of 8, headaches that are accompanied by a high fever that won’t go down, and those persons who consume over 3 alcoholic beverages per day. 

To recap: acetaminophen is usually a safe bet for most patients. Ibuprofen has the same affects as acetaminophen, but also has anti-inflammatory properties. Aspirin should just be taken for heart health, from my personal perspective. I hope this information is able to help get you through the holidays (and the rest of the year, too!). This is only a small bit of information about each of these classes of medications — always remember to do your research when taking a new medication, even if it is over the counter. Always be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Till next time,

:)Lauren