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Ask a Pharmacist: The Role of Pharmacists During COVID-19

Ronald Richmond, R.Ph., MPH, Senior Vice President of Provider Relations, Paramount Rx

How are pharmacists implementing drive-thru COVID-19 testing? What are the challenges and opportunities with this type of testing?

The pharmacy industry is working rapidly to make more testing available to the public. While testing may be available at both chain and independent pharmacies, a majority of the drive-thru COVID-19 tests are being implemented by major chain pharmacies using appointment-based services. These drive-thru tests are administered primarily through supervised self-swabbing, which minimizes physical contact and provides a greater sense of safety. Some pharmacies are even distributing at-home self-swab test kits, reducing in-person contact to virtually zero. State regulations regarding which services pharmacists can perform under their scope of practice has been a hurdle. However, the states have been working to address these challenges. This may include authorizing pharmacists to provide testing under existing practice laws or waiving the requirement for collaborative practice arrangements to provide testing. Overall, the addition of pharmacy COVID-19 testing services will provide greater access to testing, which can help to identify positive cases more quickly and get patients to self-quarantine and any treatment they may need faster.

In your opinion, what is the most important role of pharmacists right now?

There are three critical components I believe should be a top priority at this time:

  1. Improving medication therapy outcomes by driving medication adherence
  2. Providing a local, accessible destination for preventive care services, such as immunizations
  3. Providing patient education on medications and health-related matters

How has COVID-19 changed the dynamics between pharmacists and patients?

The increased use of remote prescription services, such a delivery and mail-in orders, has eliminated face-to-face contact normally seen in pharmacist-patient interactions at the counter. This is a critical component of pharmacist-patient relationships, as it enhances the sense of community and trust. As pharmacies deal with short supplies or unavailable stock of essential items, pharmacists are adapting to provide patients with alternative products and resources. For example, if a pharmacy is out of alcohol swabs or Acetaminophen, the pharmacist can be consulted to suggest a safe alternative product.

Do you believe pharmacists will play a larger role in patient care moving forward?

In several states, pharmacists are already playing a larger role in delivering patient care. These services may include prescribing oral contraceptives, conducting finger-stick blood tests for blood glucose or throat swab tests for strep, and providing diabetes education, to name a few. The availability of these types of expanded services will vary depending on the state you live in, and the type of service. States must often expand their pharmacists’ scope of practice under the law to allow them to perform these services.  Services that integrate well with normal pharmacy workflow, such as walk-up immunizations, can usually be offered at all pharmacies. In contrast, services that require more time or a private room, like diabetes education, may only be available on an appointment basis at select pharmacies.

How do you believe COVID-19 will impact the pharmacy industry in the long-term?

While it may likely impact industry procurement and preparedness practices, I’m not sure that COVID-19 will significantly impact pharmacy practice. Many pharmacists already provide testing services, so using local pharmacists to administer COVID-19 testing is not necessarily a new concept. Pharmacy drive thru testing is a new concept and may be impactful on normal workflow during pandemics, but it should not present a practice challenge for pharmacists, especially when acting in a supervisory role for self-swab tests. In addition, when the COVID-19 vaccine is available, most pharmacies will already have the infrastructure in place to administer the immunizations. During the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, pharmacists learned how support the distribution and tracking of an allocated government-procured vaccine, build reporting mechanisms to account for administered doses and work with payers to secure reimbursement for the administration of the vaccine. I believe that this H1N1 experience, coupled with the expansion of provider seasonal and non-seasonal immunization services in subsequent years, has left pharmacists well prepared to assist in the mitigation of this pandemic when a vaccine becomes available. 


For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

FDA Drug Recalls: Why it Happens and What to do

As patients, we take prescriptions to improve our health, so it can be confusing and scary when our prescriptions are recalled. However, most of the time there’s no need for alarm, as the FDA actually recalls drugs on a weekly basis for minor reasons like adverse side effects, mislabeling and manufacturing defects. So, what should you do when your medication is recalled? Check out the tips below to safely navigate a drug recall:

  1. Get all the information

If your medication is recalled, don’t panic. Most recalls are initiated out of an abundance of caution to help keep the public safe. You may even hear about the recall before your pharmacist is able to reach out to you. If this is the case, it’s important to continue taking your medication until you speak with your healthcare provider, as some medications are critical for your health. By signing up for the FDA’s Recall, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts, you can stay informed on the latest prescription news and recalls.  

  1. Make an action plan

After finding out that your prescription is recalled, verify whether your exact medication is affected by looking at the manufacturer, lot number and expiration date. If you’re unsure where to find this information, reach out to your pharmacist for help. If your exact medication is recalled, your pharmacist may be able to get the same medication from a different drug company. After discussing with your doctor, be sure to properly dispose of the recalled drug by following the FDA’s Disposal of Unused Medicines instructions. Pro tip: Take the opportunity to clean out your medicine cabinet of expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medicine!

  1. Start saving money

If your medication is recalled, it may be time to switch to an alternative medication. No matter what prescriptions you’re taking, be sure to utilize online tools to find the best possible price on your medications. Print out a free prescription discount card at www.communitycaresrx.com. A digital version of the card is also available via text or email.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Pharmacists Can Now Test for COVID-19. What Does that Mean for Patients?

For many of us, a quick trip to the pharmacy is part of our weekly routine. It’s where we fill prescriptions, pick up essentials and even get a flu shot. While your neighborhood pharmacist is always available to answer questions about medications, did you know they can also provide health screenings like COVID-19 testing?

Pharmacists are often a patient’s first point of contact with a healthcare professional, and the pandemic has shed light on their expanding roles as caregivers. HHS Secretary Alex Azar, JD, believes that “pharmacists play a vital role in delivering convenient access to important public health services and information.”

As the pandemic continues, many pharmacies across the nation are ordering and administering COVID-19 testing under the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent authorization. With wide-spread community testing now available, more Americans, especially those in under-tested and vulnerable communities, can be tested faster, resulting in less contact with symptomatic individuals.


If you are experiencing early symptoms of COVID-19 and would like to be tested, keep these precautions in mind:

  • If possible, schedule an appointment ahead of time to minimize your wait-time and exposure. Some pharmacies are even administering drive-thru tests!
  • Always follow social distancing procedures and wear a face mask.
  • Take everyday preventive steps like washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face.
  • Stay up-to-date on all your prescriptions to help maintain your overall health. Preserving your immune system is particularly important now, so that you can fight off any illnesses quickly. 

No matter what brings you to the pharmacy, be sure to utilize online tools to find the best possible price on your medications. Print out a free prescription discount card at www.communitycaresrx.com. A digital version of the card is also available via text or email.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

How to Stay Healthy and Active at Home During COVID-19

With social distancing measures in place, most Americans are staying at home for the foreseeable future to protect themselves and their communities. Now more than ever, it’s important to focus on your physical and mental health. Take this opportunity to learn more about the steps you can take to stay mentally and physically fit at home!

1. Get your steps in

There’s no doubt that staying at home has impacted our daily exercise. Don’t worry - with a little creativity, there are plenty of ways to stay active without the gym. The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. Try waking up early to take an online workout class, or take a neighborhood stroll at the end of the day. However you choose to move, make a commitment to be active daily to improve your mental and physical wellbeing.

 2. Eat a balanced diet

Consuming a healthy and well-balanced diet is essential for your overall health. While you may have stocked up on junk food and sweets at the grocery store, it’s important to control your intake of foods that are high in fat, added sugar and salt. According to Harvard Health, certain healthy foods, like citrus fruits and fatty fish, have been shown to reduce anxiety and activate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which ultimately boosts your mood. Use this extra time at home to perfect your meal prepping skills, and make smart food choices.

3.  Prioritize your mental wellbeing

If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed or disconnected, know that you’re not alone. It can be difficult to deal with changes to your daily routine and the uncertainty of what’s ahead. While everyone manages stress differently, the National Institute of Mental Health recommends limiting your screen time, virtually connecting with loved ones and taking time to relax.

 

 If you take medication, it’s important to continue taking your prescribed medication as directed by a Prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx provide resources to help you save money on the prescriptions you need, including online tools to locate a pharmacy and research drug pricing and availability.

 To learn more about consumer prescription savings programs that deliver real results for pharmacies and the community at large, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

 

 

Maintaining Your Supply of Prescriptions During COVID-19

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever to stock up on your medications. Getting a 3-month supply can help ensure proper social distancing and eliminate the need for multiple trips to the pharmacy, and give you one less thing to worry about in these stressful times. Stay stocked up so you can:

  1. Save money – In many cases, buying in bulk is cost effective. The same can be said for buying prescriptions in a 3-month supply versus a single month’s supply. A study by the University of Chicago Medical Center found that patients who bought 3-month supplies saved an average 29 percent in out-of-pocket costs for prescription medicines, and 18 percent after factoring in third-party payers. Drugstore delivery services are another useful, safe option. These pharmacy services allow for convenient delivery at a low or free rate. Pairing a prescription delivery service with a discount prescription program like Community Cares Rx will save you money and a trip to the pharmacy.
  1. Make fewer trips – Everyone could benefit from one less trip to the store as we practice social isolation due to COVID-19. Purchasing 3-month supplies of your prescriptions limits the number of visits to your pharmacy. At home delivery services are a great way to get your 3-month supply without leaving the comfort of your home. Drive-thru pharmacies are convenient choices for those who would rather make a trip to speak to a pharmacist or those who want to pick up their medicine on-the-go. Quickserv recommends drive-thru pharmacies for their accessibility to a range of patients. People who are unable to mobilize efficiently benefit from receiving their medicines via drive-thru window.
  1. Be prepared – Having a 3-month supply of your medicine on-hand keeps you ready for the unexpected. Business Insider recommends investing in a 3-month supply now and utilizing temporary waivers from insurance companies on single-month supplies. Don’t overstock, but have what you need, so you’re ready for the next several months of quarantine.

Keeping your necessary medications on schedule is vital. To learn more about consumer prescription savings programs, visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

Seeing is Believing - 3 Ways to Save Your Vision

Are you having trouble reading this article? What about seeing your phone screen? If so, you aren’t alone. The Vision Impact Institute reports 4.2 billion people around the globe have impaired vision. Fortunately, most vision problems can be avoided or corrected with the right care. To kick off “Save Your Vision” month, follow these three tips to see improvement in your vision:

  1. Eat with your eyes in mind – There’s actually some truth behind the claim that eating carrots is beneficial for your eyesight. According to Consumer Reports, eating foods packed with beneficial nutrients, like Vitamin A, can help keep your eyes strong. These nutrients are found in everyday foods and can easily be incorporated into meals throughout the day. For a nutrient-packed meal, try salmon with broccoli for dinner or grab some fruit on-the-go for breakfast!
  1. Step away from the screen – Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by screens. We spend our days scrolling on our phones, working on our laptops and binge-watching our favorite shows. Harvard Health says that sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time can result in problems like dry eye and eyestrain. Take a break from your devices to get some exercise, engage in physical interaction or just blink! Can’t step away? Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away. This gives your eyes a rest from some of the harmful blue-light emitting from screens, which can damage your eyes and even affect your sleep patterns. If you use digital devices before bed, invest in a pair of blue-light glasses to help you stay asleep when it’s time to call it a day.
  1. Stay up-to-date on eye exams – When was the last time you went to the eye doctor? It’s important to see your ophthalmologist regularly, even if you’re not having eye problems. Bel Marra Health recommends getting your eyes checked to detect vision changes and uncover potential health problems. Regular eye exams help you stay up-to-date on your vision health, so you can safely and accurately perform everyday activities. By saving money on prescriptions with Paramount Rx, you’ll have more money to spend on these important routine checkups. Depending on your age, you should see your eye doctor every year or every other year. Prioritize your vision, and get a clear outlook for your eye health!

Making healthy changes to your daily routine can result in beneficial changes to your vision. Prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx can help you get focused and saves you money on the prescriptions you need. To learn more about consumer prescription savings programs, visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Paramount Rx saves patients $500 million on prescriptions in 2019

CARY, N.C.  – Prescription Benefits Manager Paramount Rx saved U.S. customers $500 million on their prescriptions in 2019 through its Community Cares Rx prescription discount program. The program’s free prescription discount card helps provide immediate savings to millions of underinsured and uninsured American families, strengthening communities by giving people an easier path to affordable prescriptions.

According to a recent study from the Commonwealth Fund, more Americans are underinsured today compared to 2014. Underinsured patients often forego medical care to avoid high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, making prescription savings programs like Community Cares Rx more important than ever.

“As healthcare costs continue to rise, many of our customers are looking for ways to save on prescriptions,” said Ron Richmond, senior vice president of provider relations at Paramount Rx. “We understand the complex cost decisions facing the underinsured or uninsured, and our goal with the Community Cares Rx program is to help offset the cost of prescriptions and support customers in getting the care they need.”

Building on its commitment to health and wellness initiatives, Paramount Rx sponsored several wellness initiatives in 2019, including complimentary health screenings at Giant Eagle Pharmacy and Hannaford Pharmacy events, as well as free flu vaccinations at H-E-B Feast of Sharing events.

Hundreds of customers received a complimentary screening at Hannaford Pharmacy’s events, which was the pharmacy’s largest wellness pilot program to-date.

“As a community pharmacist, I really enjoy getting out from behind the counter and engaging the public,” said Matt Alter, Hannaford Health Pharmacist of the Year. “Having done these health screenings for the past two years, I feel that my customers have a greater appreciation for a pharmacist’s accessibility and ability to help guide them with their medical decisions. I am proud Hannaford is focused on providing this service to our community.” 

Hannaford Health plans to expand its wellness program with additional health screening events in the spring.

https://www.chaindrugreview.com/paramount-rx-saves-patients-500-million-on-prescriptions-in-2019/

3 Tips for a Healthy Heart

According to the American Heart Association, the key to a healthy heart and lifestyle is incorporating a variety of practices into your daily routine that keep both your body and mind fit. Here are a few tips to keep in mind so you can do your part and protect your heart:

  1. Make healthier diet choices – Eating a varied diet not only helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight; it also encourages an ideal blood pressure and healthy cholesterol levels. The Heart Foundation recommends specific dietary changes to help prevent heart disease, including lowering salt and alcohol intake. Eating too much salt can increase your blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing heart disease. Here’s a pro tip: reduce your salt intake by flavoring foods with herbs and spices instead!
  2. Get more exercise – Everyone knows that you’re supposed to exercise daily, but do you know how exercise impacts your heart health? Walking is a great way to get into the habit of regularly exercising, and Harvard Health reports that walking for just 10 minutes a day helps keeps your heart healthy. In a time crunch? Take a stroll on your lunch break or get up and move during a television commercial to keep your blood flowing.
  1. Do more of what you love – While healthy habits shape a faster and stronger you, health goes beyond physical attributes. Keeping a healthy mind also plays a role in your heart health. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, stress, anger and anxiety can increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Prioritize your favorite hobbies, listen to music and surround yourself with your loved ones. A positive outlook on life can lead to a longer lifespan.

Maintaining healthy habits that keep your heart healthy can be a challenge, but with the right mindset for the future, you can become a healthier you. Prescription discount programs like Community Cares Rx can help you get on the right track, and save you money on prescriptions along the way. To learn more about consumer prescription savings programs, visit www.paramountrx.com.

 

New Study Highlights Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2020

As modern medicine and technology evolve, we’re constantly adopting new approaches to healthcare. In 2019, cybersecurity, telehealth and wearable health monitors topped the list of emerging industry trends.

What can patients expect in 2020? A recent study from the National Business Group on Health previewed the top healthcare trends to keep an eye out for this year:

  • Overall, there will be a continued commitment to quality care.
  • As the stigma around mental health continues to dissipate, employers will start providing employees with the support they need. In fact, 48 percent of employers surveyed said they aim to offer mental health issues training.
  • Virtual healthcare solutions will grow exponentially. Patient care through apps and video technology will become increasingly popular at various levels of the healthcare system, from sleep management to prenatal care.  
  • Rx Prices will continue to rise as more high-cost procedures and medicines hit the market in 2020.

 Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable” and should require more government regulation, underscoring the importance of strategies to keep costs down.

Paramount Rx is working to help ease the burden of rising prescription costs, with programs like Community Cares Rx that could help you save an average of 50 percent on your prescriptions. Online tools are also available to help you find the best possible price on your medications. Print out a free prescription discount card at www.communitycaresrx.com. A digital version of the card is also available via text or email.

For more details on Community Cares Rx and other programs that provide cost savings on prescription medications, please visit www.paramountrx.com.

Healthy Habits to Help You Stick to Your 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s time to start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and kicking off 2020 on the right track. It’s no surprise that health related resolutions, from losing weight to cutting out junk food, top many people’s list each year. But being healthy goes beyond just physical appearance, so this year consider the aspects that impact your overall wellbeing, like relationships and mental health. More...