Behind the Scenes: What Happens Once You Give a Pharmacist Your Prescription?

When you go to the pharmacy, it can appear as if everything is already pre-packaged and ready to be dispensed immediately. But, when your pharmacist receives your prescription, you have to wait to pick it up. What happens behind the counter? And why do you have to wait to get your prescription? Below we outline the steps pharmacists take to ensure safety and accuracy when filling prescriptions. 

1. Information Input

The pharmacist enters your prescription information into the pharmacy’s data system. If you deliver your prescription to the pharmacy, the pharmacist will input your information at the drop-off window and add your prescription to your profile for same-day pickup. If your doctor sends the prescription to the pharmacy, a pharmacist will enter your information into the system before beginning with the dispensing process and will call you when your prescription is ready.

2. Verification of Insurance Benefits and Copays

The pharmacist checks your insurance coverage to verify whether your insurance plan covers the medication your doctor prescribed. If your prescription is not covered under your insurance plan, you have a few options:

  • Pay for the medication out-of-pocket
  • Opt for a generic version of your prescription (a generic medication has the same active ingredients as brand-name medications and costs less)
  • Ask your doctor for a different medication that is covered by your insurance plan

3. Prescription Review

The pharmacist checks the prescription against your medical history and your current medications (including vitamins and other non-prescription medications you’ve told your pharmacist about). It’s important to tell your pharmacist if you have any known allergies to medications.

Pharmacists make a thorough review of your prescription to make sure it is right for you, including if: 

  • Your new prescription will interact negatively with any current medications
  • You’ve been prescribed more than one medication that serves the same purpose
  • Your doctor prescribed you the appropriate dose
  • You have any allergies to the prescription
  • The prescription will exacerbate any current health problems (for example, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may make high blood pressure worse)

4. If Necessary, Coordination With the Prescribing Physician

If the pharmacist finds an interaction between your new prescription and one you’re currently taking, they will call your doctor. The pharmacist will try to solve the issue as quickly as possible to get your prescription prepared, but the time it takes to solve any issue with your prescription depends on how quickly your doctor responds. 

5. Prescription Preparation

Your medication is filled and marked with your information. Some medications are filled using a dispensing machine that automates the process, while some medications are hand-counted.

6. Second Verification

After your prescription has been filled, a pharmacist double-checks that the correct medication, with the correct dosage, was dispensed. They also double-check that all of the treatment information is correct, such as the directions for taking the medications. Information about your medication is printed out and included with your prescription. 

7. Prescription Pickup and Education

Completed orders are bagged and carefully organized in bins. When you pick up your medication, the pharmacist will ask for identifying information (like your name and birthday) to ensure that you receive the correct prescription.

At this time, the pharmacist will educate you about your medication as well as provide you with any necessary information you need to know to take your medication correctly (e.g. Should it be taken with food? Will you need to avoid the sun while taking this medication?).

At Summit Health Pharmacy, Our Pharmacists Have Your Best Interests in Mind

Pharmacists take many steps to ensure that patients receive medications that are safe. This process can take approximately 10 to 15 minutes if there are no issues with your prescription. Our pharmacists are dedicated to serving our patients and are always available for consultations and questions. 


Source:

https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/medications-cause#1

https://prescriptionhope.com/blog-prescription-filling-process-how-prescriptions-are-filled/
https://ufhealthjax.org/patient-care/docs/prescription-process.pdf
https://www.consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/item/261-behind-the-scenes-with-your-pharmacist

https://www.centennialcollege.ca/school-of-community-and-health-studies-blog/2016/march/08/behind-the-pharmacy-counter-why-it-takes-so-long-to-get-your-prescription-filled/ https://pans.ns.ca/public/pharmacy-services/filling-prescription-dispensing

Heading Back to School: Health Tips to Get Your Kids Ready for the Classroom

Image of children in the grass playing ball

The back-to-school ritual of buying school supplies and shopping for new outfits may have looked different for you this year. As some states report a stable or declining number of COVID-19 cases, while some report an increase, the school year will look different for your child depending on where you live. 

Whether your child’s school will open at full capacity or at a modified capacity that integrates staggered schedules and distance learning, it’s important for your child to get the hang of good health practices and establish healthy routines that they can incorporate throughout the school year.

Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene helps stop the spread of germs and reduces the risk of getting sick. Some things you can start practicing with your child at home before they go to school include:

  • Thoroughly washing your hands: Practice how to correctly wash your hands with your child at home— scrubbing all surfaces of the hands for at least 20 to 30 seconds with plenty of soap. It can also be helpful to give your child examples of when they should wash their hands (i.e. before and after eating, after using the toilet, and after blowing your nose).
  • Sneezing and coughing into a bent elbow: Start practicing the habit of sneezing or coughing into a bent elbow, instead of the hands. This avoids respiratory droplets from spreading in the air and/or getting on the hands, potentially getting others sick.  
  • Avoiding touching the face: One of the primary modes of infection is touching the face (the eyes, nose, or mouth) with unwashed hands. Kids are full of energy, and it can be difficult to get them to stop touching their faces. Some helpful tips to help encourage kids to not touch their face include positive reinforcement (for example, “Good job not touching your face.”), education about germs, or even incentives (like a treat or extra screen time).
  • Wearing a mask: It may be difficult for your child to transition from wearing a mask for short periods of time to wearing one all day at school. Help your child prepare for wearing a mask at school by encouraging them to practice by wearing one for longer periods of time at home.

Focus on Nutrition

A solid nutritional foundation is not only essential to your child’s physical health but has also been linked to concentration and learning ability. MD Anderson recommends that kids’ lunches contain at least two-thirds of their lunch with plant-based foods, like fruits, nuts, and vegetables; and one-third with a lean protein, like chicken. Try involving your kids when packing their lunch and use it as an opportunity to teach them about eating healthy. 

For snacks, try to avoid processed foods that contain high quantities of salt and preservatives and opt for more natural foods like fruit and vegetables with hummus, yogurt, or peanut butter. 

Make Sleep a Priority

Sleep is an important part of keeping the immune system healthy. The amount of sleep your child needs will depend on their age. Toddlers should get between 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, while children aged 6-13 need between 10.5 and 11 hours a day, and teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep a day. 

Start a sleep routine with your child to help them create good sleep habits before the school year starts. A bedtime routine can include setting a strict bedtime, or a time to start winding down, and reading a book in bed. Electronic devices should be limited closer to bedtime, as they can affect your child’s sleep quality. Consider putting away electronic devices, such as iPads, smartphones, and video games, at least one hour before bedtime.

Get Your Child Up-to-Date on Their Vaccines

Due to COVID-19 quarantine measures, many children have fallen behind their vaccine schedules. If your child will be returning to school in the fall, make an appointment with your child’s doctor to get them caught up on any missed vaccines or to stay on track with their vaccine schedule. Try to get an appointment at least a few weeks before school starts, as vaccines generally take about two weeks to become effective. 

 Are You and Your Kids Ready for the Upcoming School Year?

Going back to school is an exciting time for kids. Establishing healthy routines will help you and your family enjoy a successful school year. 


Sources:

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/everything-you-need-know-about-washing-your-hands-protect-against-coronavirus-covid-19
https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/06/coronavirus-before-schools-reopen-parents-urged-catch-up-kids-missed-vaccinations/
https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e2.htm?s_cid=mm6919e2_w
https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/5-back-to-school-health-tips.h17-1592991.html
https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/how-diet-and-nutrition-impact-a-childs-learning-ability
https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-much-sleep-children-need/
https://www.sleep.org/articles/teens-sleep-normal/

Summer Tips for Managing Medications

Proper medication management is important all year-long, but it’s especially important in the summer when temperatures rise and the sun is shining bright. What are some smart ways to manage medications during the summer months?

Know if Your Medication May Cause Dehydration

Diuretic medications increase the loss of fluids by causing frequent urination and therefore can put patients at risk of dehydration. Some examples of diuretic medications include blood pressure medications, laxatives, and chemotherapy. Other medications can increase fluid loss through side effects like:

  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When the body loses fluids, it also loses essential salts and minerals, so it’s important to replace lost fluids with something more than just water. If you’re taking a diuretic medication, stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids (especially those with electrolytes) and eating foods with high water content (like fruits and vegetables). 

Know if Your Medication May Cause Sensitivity to the Sun

Some medications can increase the way a person’s body reacts to the sun, making them more susceptible to sunburn, and can even trigger an allergic reaction to sun exposure. The results of sun exposure when taking a medication that causes sun sensitivity can include severe sunburns, rashes, hives, or blisters.

Examples of drugs that cause an increased likelihood of sunburn include antibiotics, certain antidepressants, and even some over-the-counter pain relievers. If your medication is known to increase sun sensitivity, make sure to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid being out in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight
  • Wear light-colored clothing (a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a wide-brimmed hat) when outdoors
  • Generously apply and frequently re-apply a board spectrum sunscreen

Keep Medications Out of the Sun and the Heat

Extreme heat and sunlight can alter how medications work—they can either increase or decrease a medication’s potency. Don’t leave your medication in a bag in the car or laying on a table in the sun, even just 30 minutes can be enough to alter your medication. 

Don’t take pills that have changed color, odor, or consistency (unusually soft or hard). If you take insulin, do not use it if it looks cloudy or has particles floating in it. If you notice any physical changes in your medication, consult your pharmacist. Your pharmacist will advise you as to whether you’ll need a new prescription. 

Keep Your Medications Close When Traveling 

When traveling, it can be tempting to pack all of your things into one bag and stow it out of sight. But it can be impossible to know if your medications were stored within the recommended temperature range throughout the duration of your trip. 

Always keep your medications on you when traveling. The temperatures of the areas where you’ll be are more likely to be suitable for proper medication storage compared to luggage storage areas. If you’re traveling by car, keep medications in the car with you (where you’re more likely to have the AC on) instead of in the trunk, or pack them in a cooler with frozen gel packs. If traveling by plane, keep your medications with you in your carry-on luggage, as aircraft cargo holds aren’t always temperature-controlled. 

Ask Your Pharmacist About Your Prescription Medication

Ask your pharmacist if you need to take extra precautions this summer with any of your prescription medications. Properly storing medications ensures a safe and effective treatment. Knowing the side effects of your medications will allow you to take the proper precautions to avoid health risks such as dehydration and adverse skin reactions. 


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
https://www.health.harvard.edu/skin-and-hair/10-types-of-medications
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/08/000807070850.htm

Brand-Name vs. Generic: What’s the Difference?

When you go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled, your pharmacist may ask if you prefer a generic brand. What is a generic medication? And is it as effective as a brand-name drug?

What is Generic Medicine?

Generic drugs are medications that are made in the same way as existing FDA-approved brand-name drugs. Essentially, a generic drug is a copy of a brand-name drug. The manufacturer of a generic drug must show that it is a safe and effective substitute for the brand-name version. 

According to the FDA, the generic version of a drug will share the following characteristics with its comparable brand-name medication:

  • The active ingredient
  • Inactive ingredients that are considered acceptable by the FDA
  • The form (such as liquid, tablet, or injection)
  • The method of administration (such as topical or oral)
  • The strength
  • The indications for use (what is the medication for)

What is a Brand-Name Medicine?

A brand-name drug is a medication that has been patented by a pharmaceutical company. The pharmaceutical company invests money to research the treatment, develop the drug, and conduct clinical trials. This process can take many years and requires the company to adhere to the rigorous standards outlined by the FDA. A patent allows the company to exclusively sell the medication they developed for a certain number of years without any competition. 

Generic Versions Are Just as Effective as Brand-Name Medicines

Generic drugs provide the same therapeutic outcomes and share the same risks and benefits as brand-name drugs. The FDA enforces strict regulations and performs thorough reviews that ensure that generic medications meet the same high-quality standards required of brand-name drugs. 

Why Choose Generic Over Brand-Name?

Generic drugs are typically less expensive than brand-name drugs. This is because the companies that make generic drugs do not have to make the initial investment required for research and development, clinical trials, and patents. But generic drugs cannot be sold until the patent for a brand-name drug has expired. If the brand-name drug currently has a patent, it is prohibited for any other drug manufacturer to make and/or sell a generic version of the drug. 

Can I Ask my Pharmacist to Substitute a Generic Drug for the Drug Prescribed by my Doctor?

Yes. If there is a generic version of your prescription available, you can ask your pharmacist to substitute the generic for the brand-name. There are times when your doctor may specify that you only receive the brand-name medication. In this case, your pharmacist will follow your doctor’s instructions. 

Sometimes, there may be a generic version of your prescription that your doctor might not be aware of. In this case, your pharmacist may contact your doctor to consult with them regarding a generic. 


Sources:

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/generic-drugs/generic-drug-facts
https://nhhealthcost.nh.gov/guide/question/what%E2%80%99s-difference-between-generic-and-brand-name-drugs
https://www.opm.gov/faqs/QA.aspx?fid=fd635746-de0a-4dd7-997d-b5706a0fd8d2&pid=974e0e2c-d032-4ada-bb65-496086e5fe2e#:~:text=Each%20state%20has%20a%20law,may%20not%20be%20aware%20of.

Heart-Healthy Benefits of Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of fats that are important for the body. Omega-3 fats are essential for the proper function of the body’s cells because they form part of the cell membrane (the structure that separates the interior of the cell from its surroundings) and are responsible for the proper function of receptors (structures found within the cell membrane that facilitate communication between the cell and structures outside of the cell). Omega-3 fatty acids are especially known for their role in heart health. 

How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Heart Health?

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to:

Lower blood pressure

High blood pressure over long periods of time weakens and damages the arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from the heart throughout the entire body). This increases the risk of an aneurysm (a bulge in an artery that can rupture and cause internal bleeding), coronary heart disease, and heart failure. 

Reduce arterial fat deposits

Research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids helps prevent plaque build-up in the arteries. Scientists know that eating a diet high in cholesterol, in addition to lifestyle factors like smoking, causes plaque to build up and harden within the arteries, narrowing the opening of the arteries.

Prevent cardiac arrhythmias

Arrhythmia is a condition in which the heart beats with an abnormal or irregular rhythm—either too fast or too slow. Electrical stimulation coordinates a steady heartbeat. When these electrical impulses don’t work properly, this causes the heart to beat irregularly. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help prevent arrhythmia

What Foods are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Although essential to our health, the body cannot make omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained by foods and beverages. There are 3 types of omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA are found in fish, while ALA is found in plant oils. Each type of omega-3 plays a certain role in protecting heart health. Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish including salmon, tuna, and anchovies  
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seed
  • Soybean
  • Walnuts
  • Algae

What is the Recommended Daily Intake of Omega-3?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating 2 servings of fish (fish contains both EPA and DHA omega-3 fats) every week for good heart health. One serving of fish is outlined as 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or ¾ of a cup of flaked fish. 

There are currently no daily intake recommendations for ALA omega-3 fats (found in plant oils), but research does show that including them in your diet reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. 

Healthy individuals can typically get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their diet. People who have already suffered a cardiac event like a heart attack may benefit from taking a daily omega-3 supplement. However, it’s important to discuss what type of supplement you should be looking for as well as the dose with your doctor.  


Sources:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/03/16/heart-healthy-benefits-of-omega3s.aspx
https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/eicosapentaenoic-acid-epa
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/mnt/releases/116383#1
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-arrhythmia/symptoms-causes/syc-20350668
https://www.clinicalcorrelations.org/2015/07/29/the-role-of-fish-oil-in-arrhythmia-prevention/
https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.114.015176
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-be-taking-an-omega-3-supplement

Drug-Gene Testing: Can These Tests Help Determine the Best Medications for Patients?

A drug-gene interaction refers to how someone’s genes affect the way that they will react to a certain medication—will the medication work? Will it produce negative side effects? Many patients respond differently to the same medication. This creates a challenge for both doctors and pharmacists. 

Pharmacogenetics, also called pharmacogenomics, is the study of how a person’s genes can affect the way that their body responds to medications. Pharmacogenetics can help doctors and pharmacists create a medication regimen that meets the specific needs of each patient.  

How Do Someone’s Genes Affect How Their Body Responds to Medicine?

There are thousands of genes in the body. Genes carry information that tells the body how to make proteins that determine our traits, like eye color, blood type, and even how the body reacts to medications. Different people have different versions of the same genes. Each variation of a gene carries instructions to make a different type of protein, and therefore create different traits. This is why some people have blue eyes, while others have brown or green eyes. 

Genetic variations also determine how a person’s body processes medications. For example, the CYP2D6 gene produces an enzyme (a type of protein) called the CYP2D6 enzyme that processes painkillers in the liver. People who have a genetic variation of the CYP2D6 gene that makes the body produce a higher amount than normal of the CYP2D6 enzyme can process painkillers more quickly than those who make less. If a prescription painkiller is processed too fast by the body, it can potentially cause an overdose. Pharmacogenetics can help doctors understand what dose of painkillers works best for certain patients. For example, a doctor may prescribe a lower dose of painkiller for a patient who produces a lot of the CYP2D6 enzyme.

In the case of antidepressants, approximately one-third of patients do not find relief from depressive symptoms even after trying multiple antidepressants—this is referred to as treatment-resistant depression. More than half of all patients who take antidepressants report experiencing side effects, like dry mouth, headache, and decreased sex drive. Scientists are currently using pharmacogenetics to understand why some people do not respond to certain antidepressants and why some people experience side effects, while others don’t. 

Understanding Drug-Gene Interactions Helps Doctors and Pharmacists Provide Personalized Medication Regimens

The ultimate goal of medication therapy is to safely and effectively treat a patient with the correct medication, at the right dose, and at the right intervals, with the least amount of side effects. Doctors consider many factors when creating medication regiments, like age and medical history. Now, doctors can consider genetics. 

Should Everyone Get Drug-Gene Testing?

In some cases, drug-gene testing can be very valuable. When a drug-gene interaction is well established, drug-gene testing can help protect someone from life-threatening side effects. But not all drug-gene interactions are life-threatening, and genetic variations aren’t the only factor that affects how the body processes medications.

Many factors influence how a persons’ body processes medications, like diet, age, gender, and whether or not the individual is a smoker. Although drug-gene testing can be very informative in certain situations, placing too much attention on drug-gene interaction can, in some cases, cause more harm than good. For example, some patients report feeling anxious or scared about taking certain medications after receiving results from a drug-gene test, even when they know that the medication is necessary for treating their condition. 

Where Can I Get Drug-Gene Testing?

Your doctor may recommend drug-gene testing if he/she is prescribing you a medication with a known drug-gene interaction, for example, medication for heart disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Some companies advertise at-home drug-gene testing kits, but patients should not make any changes to their medications before talking with their doctor. 


Sources:

https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/pharmacogenomics.aspx
https://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/center-individualized-medicine/patient-care/pharmacogenomics/drug-gene-testing
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4159057/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518696/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

How the Brain Responds to Different Types of Exercise

Exercise is great for the brain. We know that different types of exercise benefit the body in different ways. Researchers now know that low- and high-intensity exercise have different effects on the brain, at rest after exercising. Both types of exercise boost mood. But researchers notice changes in specific brain functions after certain types of exercise.  

High-Intensity Exercise Increases Emotional Processing

After 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise (running on a treadmill), study participants showed a change in activity in multiple regions of the brain responsible for emotional processing—the sensorimotor network (SMN), the dorsal attention network (DAN), and the affective and reward network (ARN). High-intensity exercise is associated with an increase in brain activity involved in emotional processing (the ability to process stress and other intense emotions). This suggests that the brains of people who do high-intensity exercise may be better at processing difficult emotions compared to people who do not exercise or who do not do any high-intensity exercise. 

Low-Intensity Exercise Increases Cognitive Processing

After 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise (walking on a treadmill), study participants showed an increase in activity in the part of the brain responsible for executive functions—the fronto-parietal network (FPN) regions. This suggests that low-intensity exercise improves the brain’s ability to perform executive functions. Examples of executive functions include the ability to:

  • Concentrate
  • Regulate emotion and control behavior
  • Change one’s perspective
  • Adapt to new tasks quickly

What’s the Difference Between Low- and High-Intensity Exercise?

Low intensity and high-intensity exercise will look different for most people. That’s because every person has a different fitness level and health history. The most accurate way to measure the intensity of an exercise is through heart rate. For example, performing high-intensity exercise requires 77-93% of your maximum heart rate. The American Heart Association provides a guide for how to calculate your maximum heart rate according to your age. 

For those who don’t have access to a heart monitor, there is a way to gauge intensity through a simpler test, called the “talk test.” For example, During high-intensity exercise, it is not possible to say more than a few words before needing to take a breath, while during low-intensity exercise, it is easy to carry on a conversation without having to stop to take a breath. 

Get Started With a Well-Rounded Exercise Routine

If you currently do not exercise and are interested in starting an exercise routine, consider visiting your doctor first, especially if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition like cardiovascular disease, diabetes (type 1 and type 2), or high blood pressure. Your doctor can help you understand the best types of physical activity to start with. He/she can also help you understand how intense your workouts should be according to your heart rate—doing too much high-intensity exercise can lead to injuries.

To create a well-rounded exercise plan, incorporate different types of physical activity into your routine. Examples of high-intensity exercise include running, cycling, and jump rope. Examples of low-intensity exercise include walking, swimming, and Thai Chi. But ultimately, the best types of exercise are those that are enjoyable and can be done on a near-daily basis.


Sources:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200130115430.htm
https://muv.dotfit.com/content-35944.html
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm
https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
https://memory.ucsf.edu/symptoms/executive-functions
https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-athletes-way/202002/brain-connectivity-fluctuates-based-exercise-intensity

How to Strengthen Your Immune System to Ward Off Illness

Fears regarding the coronavirus have sparked widespread curiosity about how to boost the immune system. A strong immune system helps protect the body from disease-causing pathogens and helps the body remove foreign and harmful pathogens from the body. 

There is no one way to guarantee that you won’t ever get sick, whether it’s with coronavirus or from a common cold. But there are things you can do every day to support your immune system and give it the best chance to fight off illness.  

Get Plenty of Quality Sleep

Sleep is the body’s way of restoring and recovering. Sleep is also an important part of strengthening the body’s immune system. While sleeping, the body releases a special protein, called cytokines, that are essential in targeting infections. Research tells us that sleep deprivation (getting less than the recommended amount of sleep for days, weeks, or even months) makes the body susceptible to many diseases, including chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. 

This doesn’t mean that sleeping more than necessary will support the immune system. In fact, researchers know that sleeping too much can contribute to the same health risks as sleeping too little. But it does mean that not getting enough good quality sleep can make someone more susceptible to getting sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers get anywhere from 8 to 10.

Eat a Well-Rounded Diet to Keep the Gut-Microbiota Healthy

The gut microbiota is a colony of billions of microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, found in the gastrointestinal tract. The gut microbiota helps the body digest food and also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. Scientists know that roughly 70% of the body’s immune system is found in the gut

The gut microbiota is healthier when there is a more diverse population of microorganisms. Foods that are known to harm the gut microbiota and decrease the diversity of microorganisms include greasy and packaged foods and even drinking too much alcohol. A varied diet rich in high-fiber foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, promotes a more diverse population of the gut microbiome.

Get a Handle on Stress

The current situation around COVID-19 may be stressful for some. Fear and anxiety can bring up strong emotions and can lead to overwhelming stress. Researchers know that stress, whether emotional or physical, negatively affects the immune system. Chronic stress lasting days or even years has a particularly detrimental effect on the immune system. 

Some examples of ways to manage stress include:

  • Deep breathing techniques: Shallow breathing is part of the stress response. Practicing deep breathing, also called belly or diaphragmatic breathing, gets more oxygen to the brain, which helps calm the nervous system and induce calmness. 
  • Creating and sticking to a routine: Routines can help improve mental health and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  
  • Exercise or be active every day: Exercise decreases tension, improves mood, and is even proven to help improve sleep quality.

Sources:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768894/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394987/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5056590/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190902142015.htm
https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/
https://www.stress.org/take-a-deep-breath
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/

Biologics vs Traditional Prescription Drugs: How Biologics Are Being Used to Heal a Wide Range of Conditions From Eczema to Arthritis

Prescription medications have traditionally been manufactured using chemical substances. More and more, physicians are treating patients diagnosed with a wide range of conditions with a new class of drugs, called biologics or biologic medicine.

What is Biologic Medicine?

In contrast to traditional medications that are made using chemical compounds, biologics are made using living cells from humans, animals, organisms like bacteria, and even plants. The oldest example of a biologic is a vaccine. Vaccines contain a very small amount of certain molecules, called antigens, from harmful pathogens that can cause deadly diseases. When a vaccine is administered, these antigens help teach or train the body’s immune system to recognize and attack harmful pathogens, like viruses, in the case of infection. Insulin is another example of a biologic. Insulin used to be isolated from the pancreas of pigs and cows. It was then sterilized before given to patients. But today, scientists can also use bacteria to produce synthetic human insulin. 

How Are Biologics Made?

Manufacturing biologic medicine requires tissue or cells from living organisms. Scientists genetically modify these living cells to produce certain molecules, like proteins and enzymes, found in the human body that can interact with the immune system. 

How Do Biologics Work?

Biologic drugs work by targeting and affecting the function of specific cells or chemicals in the immune system. Each medication targets a different cell or chemical in the immune system, depending on the condition it treats. For example, biologic medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the body’s own healthy tissue and causes inflammation and damage of the joints) are used to suppress the immune system by targeting T-cells associated with inflammation and joint tissue damage.  

What Are the Benefits of Biologics?

Biologics work by targeting a specific component of the immune system. Traditional prescription medications of chemical origin circulate through the entire body, affecting multiple organ systems and causing a wide range of side effects. Most biologic medications do not cause systemic side effects. However, they do come with their own set of side effects. For example, some biologics suppress the immune system, which can increase one’s risk of certain infections, like tuberculosis and sepsis. 

How Are Biologic Medications Administered?

As of now, biologics are not administered orally and must be administered either via injection or intravenous infusion. The molecular size of biologics—that being much bigger than chemically-derived drugs like, for example, aspirin—does not allow them to pass through the intestinal walls and therefore be absorbed by the body. Biologics are also sensitive to the chemical conditions of the gastrointestinal system and can be destroyed before being absorbed by the body. 

The Future of Biologics

The development of biologics has increased dramatically in the past two decades. The majority of biologic medicines available today are used to treat people with autoimmune disease, systemic diseases like cancer, and rare genetic diseases. Researchers continue to search for biologics that can help treat patients with all kinds of conditions. Since most patients prefer to take medications orally, researchers also continue to find ways to make biologics that can be taken orally.


Sources:

https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccines-work/
https://arthritis.org/drug-guide/biologics/biologics
https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bcp.12202
https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zqqs2nb/revision/1
https://www.diabetes.co.uk/insulin/animal-insulin.html
https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-05/first-plant-derived-biologic-drug-approved-human-use-fda/
https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/research/review-article/recent-advances-in-the-oral-delivery-of-biologics/20207374.article?firstPass=false
https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/understanding-biologic-treatments-for-ra#3

How Working With Your Pharmacist Can Help You Adhere to Your Treatment Plan and Improve Your Health

Treatment Non-adherence at a Glance
50% of patients in developed countries don’t take their medications as prescribed. 
20% to 30% of new prescriptions are never filled.
Poor adherence causes 30% to 50% of treatment failures and 125,000 deaths per year in the US among patients diagnosed with a chronic disease. 

Patients diagnosed with chronic illness, like diabetes or high blood pressure, and complicated medication regimens are at an increased risk of not taking medications as instructed. Treatment adherence is the term used when patients take medications exactly as instructed by their doctor. The World Health Organization estimates that only 50% of patients in the US diagnosed with chronic illness adhere to treatment. 

Pharmacists play an important role in helping patients adhere to their treatment plan. How can patients work with their pharmacists to achieve treatment adherence? First, it’s important for patients to understand why they should adhere to treatment instructions.

Why Is it Important to Adhere to Medication and Treatment Plans?

The benefits of adhering to treatment instructions include saving you time and money, but most importantly it can save your life. Medication adherence:

  • Decreases overall medical expenses by reducing the risk of hospitalization. Health complications caused by medication non-adherence can require immediate hospital assistance. For example, not adhering to diabetes medications can cause extremely high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and diabetic coma. 
  • Prevents or delays the condition from getting worse. 
  • Decreases risk of death due to health complications associated with medication non-adherence.

How Can Your Pharmacist Help You Adhere to Your Treatment Plan?

Medication Therapy Management Programs

Medication therapy management (MTM) programs allow pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to work one-on-one with patients. These programs include a review of the patient’s medications and an action plan to support the patient’s adherence. In some cases, the pharmacist comes to the patient’s home. Other pharmacies make appointments at their location. Ask your pharmacy if they offer medication therapy management programs. 

Consolidating Medications to Make Pick-up Easier

Pharmacies can coordinate prescription refills so that you can pick up all of your medications on the same day each month, instead of having to come in multiple times for multiple medications. 

Reducing the Risk of Drug-Drug Interactions

If you’re taking multiple medications, pharmacists are able to identify possible interactions between two or more medications—called a drug-drug interaction. Drug-drug interactions can cause adverse side effects. Adverse side effects are one of the main reasons why patients stop taking their medications. If your pharmacist sees that there is the possibility of a drug-drug interaction, he/she can work with your doctor to find an alternative prescription and reduce the risk of adverse side effects. 

Get to Know Your Pharmacist and Keep in Touch

Having a personal connection with your doctor and your pharmacist is a big part of medication adherence. If you have questions about your medication, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or your pharmacist. Taking medications exactly as instructed by your doctor could save your life. 


Sources:

https://www.who.int/chp/knowledge/publications/adherence_report/en/
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/special-features/why-you-need-take-your-medications-prescribed-or-instructed
https://www.pharmacist.com/medication-therapy-management-services
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170707135143.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068890/