News of importance to Pharmacists

The recently signed farm bill by President Trump designated hemp as an agricultural crop, prompting the FDA to reaffirm its stance that hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) is illegal to use as an ingredient in food or health products without the agency’s approval.

In a statement, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote: “Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective.”

New CMS policies targeting opioid overuse went into effect on January 1. The policies help Medicare Part D sponsors prevent and combat opioid overuse including additional safety alerts at the time of dispensing as a proactive step to engage both patients and prescribers about overdose risk and prevention. (WVPA mailed CMS policies to its members January 1.)

The National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) is studying the need for further regulation of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). NCOIL is the national organization of all states insurance legislators. Delegate Steve Westfall (R-Jackson) represents West Virginia on NCOIL.

Near the top of the Gallup “survey of honesty and ethical standards” are PHARMACISTS. Once again, nurses took the lead, but pharmacists are tied with physicians for second place.

Last month, Express Scripts — which, along with CVS Health and OptumRx, controls about 72 percent of the PBM market — announced plans to offer some of its clients more transparency and accountability by forgoing any compensation other than fixed management fees and revenue tied to clinical outcomes.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers announce price hikes: Novatris and Bayer are among 30 drug manufacturers that have taken steps to raise the U.S. prices of their medicines in January. Others raising prices include Allergan Plc, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Amgen, AstraZeneca and Biogen. Pfize has already announced plans to hike prices on 41 of its drugs.

According to a release by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), funding for Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) will provide more timely and comprehensive data on fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses and risk factors associated with fatal overdoses. Over $12.8 million is being awarded 20 states, including West Virginia, to undertake the initiative

Improving the way opioids are prescribed through clinical practice guidelines can ensure patients have access to safer, more effective chronic pain treatment while reducing the number of people who misuse, abuse or overdose from these drugs, reports the CDC.

The CDC published its Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain ( to provide recommendations for the prescribing of opioid pain medication for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. Recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain (pain lasing longer than 3 months or past the time of normal tissue healing) outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care and end-of-life care.

The American Pharmacists Association and West Virginia Pharmacists Association applauds the Trump administration recommendations that would allow pharmacists to be paid directly for services. Other health care providers proposed to be paid in the report authored by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Their report identifies actions that could develop a better functioning health care market while ensuring better access to patient care services. Recommendations call for states to consider changes in their scope-of-practice statutes to allow all health care providers to practice at the top of their license, utilizing their full skill sets and training.