Prescription Drugs

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

Health care organizations in North Carolina are expanding an initiative to see how doctors and pharmacists cooperate to streamline patient care.

Community Care of North Carolina has already set up a program in which 3,000 GlaxoSmithKline employees see doctors who coordinate all their treatment.

But CCNC President Doctor Allen Dobson says that primary care physicians don't always know all the medications a patient is taking, especially if they're seeing other specialists for multiple conditions.

A picture of an intravenous drip bag of saline.
Harmid / Wikipedia

Medical facilities are facing a national shortage of intravenous drugs, especially saline IV drips. Saline is used to treat dehydrated patients.

Manufacturers are stepping up production to meet need, but the shortage has presented problems to hospitals since December, when flu season began.

Zack Moore is an infectious disease epidemiologist with he North Carolina Division of Public Health. He said this is an especially bad time of year to have a limited saline supply for two reasons.

Federal regulators this month opened a new era in the treatment of a deadly liver virus that infects three to five times more people than HIV. Now the question is: Who will get access to the new drug for hepatitis C, and when?

The drug Sovaldi will cost $1,000 per pill. A typical course of treatment will last 12 weeks and run $84,000, plus the cost of necessary companion drugs. Some patients may need treatment for twice as long.

Prescription drugs at a pharmacy.
Aunti P via Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina residents have turned in millions of unused pills this year as part of a effort to fight substance abuse.  State Attorney General Roy Cooper says more than 9,500,000 prescription and over-the-counter drugs were collected during the fall months by police agencies statewide. 

B.J. Sanders and her son Chad tell of losing a family member to a drug overdose.
Community Care NC

In 2009, Wilkes County in the northwestern part of the state had the 4th highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths in the country. Two years later, those numbers dropped by 68 percent. That's because of a program called Project Lazarus, which is now going to be implemented statewide.

a pharmacist
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Prescription drug overdose kills an average of three people per day in North Carolina. 

Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill say a statewide system designed to reduce those numbers – North Carolina Controlled Substances Reporting System (CSRS) – is effective - but grossly underused.

CSRS went into effect in 2007, following a legislative mandate, but of the 34,000 providers authorized to prescribe controlled substances, only a third have registered with the CSRS, and fewer than half of those actually use it.

State health officials want to know if low use of a prescription drug database is leading to more deaths in North Carolina.

A majority of state pharmacists and doctors are not checking a drug registry that every pharmacy must report to. Some lawmakers say that can enable some people to abuse highly addictive drugs. Last year, more than one thousand North Carolinians died of pharmaceutical overdoses. William Bronson runs the database for the state Department of Health and Human Services. He says it may not be fair to blame pharmacists for not monitoring their patients' drugs.

Duke University medical officials have come up with guidelines for allocating scarce drugs. Supplies of some cancer medications and other drugs can sometimes run low at hospitals. Doctor Phillip Rosoff is the Director of Clinical Ethics at Duke University Medical Center. He says the protocol focuses on fairness.