Study: Pharmacists’ intervention can help keep men healthy

Pharmacists screening men for a variety of health conditions discovered an average of three previously undiagnosed health risks in the 382 men assessed as part of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy (OU) Men’s Health Outcomes Study.

The outcomes study is part of the larger National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Men’s Health Care Initiative, supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer. The Institute for the Advancement of Community Pharmacy provided additional financial support.

The Men’s Health Outcomes Study was undertaken by OU to determine whether pharmacists could positively influence men’s health behavior. Pharmacists working in 29 pharmacies around the country participated in the study.

The following health risks were detected in decreasing order of frequency: high cholesterol (50%), hypertension (44%), diabetes (43%), prostate cancer (40%), low testosterone levels (34%), influenza (25%), colon cancer (24%), erectile dysfunction (17%), pneumonia (14%), enlarged prostate (13%), and depression (9%).

The pharmacists used a Men’s Health Risk Assessment Tool (MHRAT) to collect data on the patients’ medical histories and to determine the patients’ likelihood of developing serious health problems. The MHRAT was developed by combining previously validated survey tools.

Patients ranged in age between 25 and 74 years. Sixty-nine percent of the men had not received a physical examination during the past one to 23 years. Fifty-six men could not remember their last physical exam.

Nearly two-thirds of the men sought follow-up medical attention based on the pharmacist’s recommendation. One new prescription resulted for nearly every physician visit.


Interstitial cystitis study finds limited benefit in two oral drugs

An 18-month pilot study of two commonly available treatments has shown no significant benefit in patients with interstitial cystitis (IC), reports the National Institutes of Health. The results of the study were published in the September issue of the Journal of Urology.

The first in a series of treatment studies planned by the IC Clinical Trials Group tested the effectiveness of pentosan polysulfate sodium (Elmiron) and hydroxyzine hydrochloride (Atarax) in 121 patients with IC. Most volunteers reported experiencing moderate pain, discomfort, and urinary frequency for at least a year before entering the study.

Patients in the randomized trial received either pentosan polysulfate sodium or hydroxyzine hydrochloride, a combination of the two, or a placebo. Researchers hoped that a combination treatment might result in faster, more effective symptom relief. However, neither of the drugs nor the combination therapy produced a statistically significant benefit in patients. Forty percent of volunteers who took the combined treatment benefited. Pentosan polysulfate sodium alone helped 28% of patients in the trial, while 23% had a positive response to hydroxyzine hydrochloride. Side effects were minimal.

Because these treatments proved ineffective for the majority of patients, researchers do not plan to expand the trial.


FDA to inform women about menopausal hormone therapy

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a nationwide information campaign to raise awareness about the recent findings on the risks and benefits of menopausal hormone therapy.

Last spring, Congress directed the FDA to develop and execute this important information campaign targeting women through partnerships with organizations nationwide. More than 10 million women use menopausal hormone therapies for relief from symptoms of menopause.

Working in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and other Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, the FDA has developed science-based informational materials on its latest guidance on menopausal hormone therapies (estrogens and estrogens with progestins), and is working closely with women’s health organizations, community-based organizations, and other experts to get this information out to women and health care providers.

The main tools of the campaign are a menopause and hormone therapy fact sheet, and a purse guide that provides questions for discussion with a health professional. These materials will be available in both English and Spanish from the National Women’s Health Information Center at www.4woman.gov.

The campaign, led by FDA and HHS agencies, also is being sponsored by a wide variety of participating organizations. It is designed to clarify the recent information from studies including the landmark Women’s Health Initiative Study, one arm of which was halted in July 2002 due to concerns about increased risks of heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and other health concerns.

This event is the first in a series of events being scheduled this fall to assist FDA’s partners in providing up-to-date, reliable information and guidance to women.


Wyeth issues warning about venlafaxine use in children

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has issued a "Dear Health Care Professional" letter to warn about reports of adverse effects of use in pediatrics.

The Aug. 22 letter states that efficacy has not been established for major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder in clinical studies in pediatric patients (ages 6 to 17 years). In addition, there have been increased reports among those patients on venlafaxine extended-release capsules vs. placebo, of hostility and suicide-related adverse events, such as suicidal ideation and self-harm. Wyeth is not recommending the use of the drug in pediatric patients and has updated the prescribing information.

If a decision is made to discontinue a patient from venlafaxine, Wyeth recommends that the treatment not be discontinued abruptly. A gradual reduction in dose under medical supervision is recommended. See the prescribing information for additional instructions with regard to discontinuation.