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News Briefs 

UF Faculty Finds Alternative Therapies May Reduce Effects of Functional Bowel Disorders

University of Florida faculty members have found evidence that alternative therapies such as hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy may benefit patients suffering from functional bowel disorders. Dr. Oliver Grundmann, clinical assistant professor at the UF College of Pharmacy, and Dr. Saunjoo “Sunny” Yoon, associate professor at the UF College of Nursing, reviewed 19 recent clinical trials to examine the potential benefits of using four common mind-body therapies—yoga, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback—to treat functional bowel disorders. In particular, the researchers found indications that there were some benefits to hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Functional bowel disorders occur when the stomach and bowels aren’t working properly. Treatments typically target stomach pain, bloating and other intestinal symptoms. Because functional bowel disorders are chronic conditions that come and go over time, patients sometimes develop negative attitudes that can affect treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help patients feel more positive. In one study the researchers examined, cognitive behavioral therapy worked as well as antidepressant medications. Some of the studies showed that hypnotherapy—used to reduce patients’ pain—worked as well as medication. The results were inconclusive, but Yoon said doctors should not exclude complementary therapies when treating functional bowel disorders.

Hormone-Free Birth Control Research Advances With $8.3 Million NIH Contract

University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy researchers will investigate pharmaceutical alternatives to existing hormone-based birth control under a new $8.3 million contract from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The primary goal of the five-year research contract is to develop new non-hormonal male and female birth control drug targets and expand on existing targets. Researchers from the college, the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development and their collaborator at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., will work to further birth control research conducted at the University of Minnesota, The University of Kansas and elsewhere.

Dr. Gunda I. Georg, professor and head of the College of Pharmacy’s Department of Medicinal Chemistry, is at the forefront of developing a non-hormonal pharmaceutical solution to stop sperm from ever reaching maturity. Georg, principal investigator for the NICHD contract and 2013 recipient of AACP’s Volwiler award, and her colleagues are also working to develop a non-hormonal birth control pill for women.

Pharmacists’ Services Championed at Capitol Hill Health Fair

More than 75 pharmacists, pharmacy residents and student pharmacists from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Shenandoah University and Virginia Commonwealth University descended on Capitol Hill last November for a health fair aimed at informing legislators and their staff about the services that pharmacists can provide to help individuals maintain healthy lifestyles and prevent and manage chronic illnesses. “[Pharmacists] are trained to provide a variety of healthcare screenings and patient counseling services, but our skills are often underutilized,” said Dr. Cherokee Layson-Wolf, associate dean for student affairs and associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “By staging a health fair on Capitol Hill, pharmacists and pharmacy students were able to show legislators and their staffers that our services extend far beyond medication dispensing.”

The American Pharmacists Association, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Community Pharmacists Association, National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the Congressional Community Pharmacy Caucus organized the first-ever health fair on the Hill. Assisted by faculty, preceptors and other pharmacists, student pharmacists provided participating legislators, congressional aides and other government staff members with medication consultations and screenings for bone density, body composition, glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Following the screening, participants met with student pharmacists to learn more about the scores they received and how to adjust their diet and supplementation to obtain optimum levels of calcium and Vitamin D, get adequate exercise and prevent falls. The event was part of an ongoing initiative led by professional pharmacy organizations and schools of pharmacy to raise awareness and provide insight about healthcare policy and other issues related to the profession, including provider status.

NCPIE Report Reveals Poor Medication Adherence in Americans With Multiple Chronic Conditions

The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE)—a nonprofit coalition of more than 100 organizations working to improve communication on the appropriate use of medicines—released a 10-step Adherence Action Agenda to combat the looming crisis of medication mismanagement among older adults with multiple chronic conditions. This population is at the greatest risk of medication errors, drug interactions and costly disease complications; and evidence suggests that poor medicine adherence will increase dramatically with the projected rise in age-related chronic illnesses.

Studies document a rise in the incidence of drug reactions from 6 percent in patients taking two medications a day to as high as 50 percent in patients taking five drugs a day. It is estimated that $1.3 billion is spent annually on the avoidable healthcare costs associated with mismanaged multiple drug use by American seniors. The agenda lays out 10 policy and programmatic solutions to improve medication adherence:

  1. 1. Establish medicine adherence as a priority goal of all federal and state efforts designed to reduce the burden of multiple chronic conditions.
  2. 2. Establish the role of the patient navigator within the care team to help patients with multiple chronic conditions navigate the healthcare system and take their prescription medicines as prescribed.
  3. 3. Promote clinical management approaches that are tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of individuals with multiple chronic conditions.
  4. 4. Incentivize the entire healthcare system to incorporate adherence education and medication support as part of routine care for MCC patients.
  5. 5. Eliminate the barriers that impede the ability of patients with multiple chronic conditions to refill their prescription medicines.
  6. 6. Reduce the cost-sharing barriers for patients by lowering or eliminating patient copayments for prescription medicines used to treat the most common chronic diseases.
  7. 7. Accelerate the adoption of new health information technologies that promote medication adherence.
  8. 8. Establish medication adherence as a measure for the accreditation of healthcare professional educational programs.
  9. 9. Address multiple chronic conditions and optimal medication management approaches in treatment guidelines.
  10. 10. Stimulate rigorous research on treating people with multiple chronic conditions, including focused research on medication adherence to promote the safe and appropriate use of different medicines in this patient population.

Have an interesting story involving your students? Let us know! News Briefs will now include a special section highlighting student pharmacist achievement. For more information, contact Kyle Bagin at kbagin@aacp.org.

Northeastern Student’s Research Published in Two Prestigious Journals

A fourth-year student pharmacist at Northeastern University School of Pharmacy had his research published in both the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and Health Affairs. Through his work as a research assistant at the Northeastern University Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research, Eli Raver assisted faculty with project planning, data collection, analysis and report generation, acting as an active member of the research team. “Dr. Chia-Hung Chou took it upon himself to be my mentor and really encouraged me to strive for excellence and step outside my comfort zone,” Raver said, noting that Chou encouraged him to learn a statistical program known as SAS. “This helped me become more engaged and involved in the various research projects I was working on.”

The NEJM article outlined results of a study of the community benefits that tax-exempt hospitals provide. The piece in Health Affairs described results of an investigation into whether socioeconomic characteristics play a role in Medicare Part D contractors’ performance ratings for medication adherence.

“Eli’s contribution to two manuscripts in competitive, highly prestigious health journals is noteworthy given that the typical pharmacy student does not have the opportunity to publish in even one prestigious journal,” said Dr. Nathaniel M. Rickles, associate professor of pharmacy practice and administration at the Northeastern University School of Pharmacy. “Eli’s intellectual contributions to both publications were noteworthy and contributed significantly to the work getting published.” Raver will graduate in May and plans to pursue a career in managed care pharmacy.

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