The latest updates on prescription drugs and ways to save from the GoodRx medical team

Overdose-Reversing Nasal Spray in Pharmacies Now

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on January 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm

Drug overdoses have been the main cause of injury death in the United States since 2008, according to the DEA. Car crashes used to be first in line, but deaths from drug overdose have now far surpassed those from motor vehicle accidents and firearms.

How bad is the problem? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 person in the United States dies every 21 minutes from an opioid overdose.

Many Americans take opioid pain medications as prescribed by their doctors, for serious conditions—but that doesn’t always mean you are at a lower risk for overdose. However, there are precautions you can take if you’ve been prescribed a higher-dose opioid for chronic pain.

The naloxone (generic Narcan) injection has recently been in the news, as many states no longer require a prescription for this life-saving medication. For more information on injectable naloxone, see our previous post here.

Now, Narcan is available in a new, easier-to-use nasal spray form, that may help save even more lives.

What is Narcan nasal spray used for?
Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray is used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose from medications like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and the illegal drug heroin.

Is there anything unique about Narcan nasal spray?

Yes. Narcan nasal spray is the first FDA approved nasal spray version of naloxone. Naloxone has been available for some time now, but only as an injection solution.

How is Narcan nasal spray to be used?
Narcan nasal spray can be given by family members, caregivers, or other bystanders in an emergency drug-overdose situation. Each dose is given as a single 0.1 mL nasal spray into one nostril.

Additional doses of Narcan nasal spray may be necessary while waiting for emergency help to arrive.

Please keep this in mind! Even if the dose Narcan nasal spray appears to help, family members or caregivers should still seek medical attention. A drug overdose (even suspected or potential) is a life-threatening situation and a serious emergency.

How will Narcan nasal spray be available?
Narcan nasal spray will be dispensed from your pharmacy in a carton containing 2 blister packages. Each will have a single 0.1 mL dose containing 4 mg of medication.

When was Narcan nasal spray approved?
Narcan nasal spray was approved by the FDA on November 18, 2015.

When will Narcan nasal spray be available?
Narcan nasal spray is available in pharmacies now.

Want more information?

See the press announcement from the FDA regarding Narcan nasal spray here.


GoodRx Top 10 Drug Guide: What Are the Most Expensive and Most Popular Drugs in the US

by Elizabeth Davis on January 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm

The new Goodrx Top 10 Lists are in, and this time we take a look back at the end of 2015. These are the most popular and most expensive drugs in the US, and they cover all kinds of conditions from common heart and pain meds to pricey treatments for cancer and genetic disorders.

To start with—which drugs were filled the most in the last quarter of 2015?

  • Popular pain med hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Vicodin, Norco) continues to top the list, even after it was reclassified as a schedule II controlled substance in 2015. This is the strictest level of control, and means you need a new prescription every time you fill (among other restrictions).
  • Common, chronic conditions continue to dominate our most popular list. Most people taking these prescriptions are on them long-term, for conditions like thyroid imbalance (levothyroxine / Synthroid), high blood pressure (lisinopril), diabetes (metformin), and high cholesterol (atorvastatin).
  • Also very commonly prescribed: drugs used for many different conditions, like prednisone, a common corticosteroid, and amoxicillin, an antibiotic.
  • Take a look at the full list to see what else Americans filled last year.

Which drugs were the most expensive?

  • Not a lot of change here either. The new, very effective and very expensive hepatitis C meds continue to top the list, including Sovaldi, Harvoni, Olysio, and Viekira Pak. Daklinza, approved in July 2015 joins them—but may be even more pricey overall as it’s used in combination with Sovaldi, another most-expensive contender. The slightly better news when it comes to all of these hepatitis C drugs: most courses of treatment are around 12 weeks long, so while they are quite costly per month, you don’t need to continue taking them for many months or years.
  • Cuprimine, used to treat Wilson’s disease (an accumulation of copper in the liver), and lead and mercury poisoining, is a suprising new addition. This drug has been around for decades—it was approved by the FDA in 1970—and fits the 2015 trend of huge price-hikes for existing medications. Manufacturer Valeant raised the price over 400% in 2015.
  • Hereditary angioedema (HAE) continues to be one of the most expensive rare genetic conditions to treat, with Cinryze and Firazyr both making our most-expensive list again this quarter.
  • See the full list for a look at the other most-expensive meds in the US.

Leukemia Med Gleevec Goes Generic

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on January 27, 2016 at 3:43 pm

A generic for cancer med Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) has been approved, and will be available soon. Gleevec is used to treat multiple types of cancener, including chronic myeloid leukemia.

Chronic myeloid leukemia or CML is a rare blood-cell cancer that begins in the bone marrow, and causes your body to produce too many white blood cells. CML typically occurs in adults but it can (very rarely) affect young children.

How will generic imatinib be available?

Like Gleevec, imatinib mesylate will be available as a tablet in 100 mg and 400 mg strengths.

When was imatinib mesylate approved by the FDA?

The FDA approved generic Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) oral tablets on December 4, 2015.

When will generic Gleevec be available?

According to the manufacturer, Sun Pharma, the generic version of Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) is scheduled to launch on February 1, 2016.

What are the side effects of imatinib tablets?

The most common side effects include water retention, muscle cramps, stomach pain, loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea, decreased hemoglobin, abnormal bleeding, nausea, fatigue, and rash.

What else should you know about Gleevec?
Gleevec (imatinib mesylate) is a specialty medication. Specialty medications are typically very expensive, and may require extra monitoring by your doctor. For more information on specialty medications please check out our two previous posts on what you should know about specialty meds and what makes specialty drugs different.

While you’re taking Gleevec, your doctor may need to check your blood to see if the medication is working properly. Your doctor may also monitor your liver function, thyroid levels, kidneys, heart, or growth. If Gleevec is prescribed for a child, it can potentially slow down or stop their growth, and extra monitoring is recommended.


10 Things You Need to Know about Bioidentical Hormones

by Dr. Sharon Orrange on January 26, 2016 at 1:18 pm

The use of bioidentical hormones by menopausal women is on the rise. Bioidentical hormone replacement, also known as compounded hormone therapy, isn’t nearly as well studied as conventional hormone replacement therapy and isn’t regulated—yet it is used by 2.5 million women in the US.

Why’d they become a thing? After publication of the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative findings there were new fears about conventional FDA approved hormone therapy like Prempro, Premarin, estradiol, Menest, and others. Bioidenticals are viewed as an alternative approach to treating menopause, but you should know what you are getting into.

If you’re thinking about using bioidentical hormones, here are 10 facts you need to know:

  1. Many health insurance companies don’t cover compounded hormone therapy, or reimburse you if you pay out of pocket.
  2. Most users of compounded hormone therapy are not aware that these medications are not FDA-approved.
  3. In one survey, two-thirds of 184 women (67%) believed that compounded hormone therapy was safer than FDA approved conventional hormone therapy, but that has never been shown to be true.
  4. Eek—cancer! There have been cases of endometrial (uterine) cancer noted among users of bioidentical hormones. This underscores the risks associated with using unregulated medications.
  5. The consensus of the medical community is that menopausal candidates for hormone therapy should be aware that FDA-approved bioidentical estradiol and progesterone formulations are available, and they should be discouraged from using unregulated products.
  6. How can people sell unregulated products? In 2001, the US supreme court ruled that pharmacies could market compounded products that were unregulated by the FDA. That’s when compounded hormone therapy became popular.
  7. Though many women consider compounded/bioidentical hormone therapy options to be more ‘‘natural’’ and safer, compounded products are not FDA-approved and are thus not tracked or monitored in the same way. Please know that certain types of bioidentical hormones have been advertised to prevent breast cancer and heart disease, achieve weight loss, or slow the aging process without any real clinical studies to back up these assertions.
  8. Many doctors who sell compounded hormone therapy also recommend checking salivary hormone levels to keep an eye on your treatment. This has been well studied and unfortunately, people are not aware that such levels do not reflect serum (blood) hormone levels. Please don’t waste your money.
  9. In fact, monitoring hormone levels is not routinely recommended in managing the treatment of women using hormones.
  10. An estimated 26 to 33 million compounded hormone therapy prescriptions a year are filled at community and compounding pharmacies, for a revenue of 1 to 2 billion dollars. It’s quite a money making business.

Dr O.


Using GoodRx at Walmart or Sam’s Club? Please Read

by Elizabeth Davis on January 25, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Please email us at help@goodrx.com if you have any questions about using a discount, or if you’ve had any trouble at the pharmacy.

Walmart and Sam’s Club are updating their pharmacy computer systems this month.

As a result, your Walmart or Sam’s Club pharmacist may require you to present your GoodRx discount again. Don’t worry! It’s easy to get a new discount coupon and you may find even greater savings.

To get a new discount you can:

  • Download the GoodRx app (coupons inside—just show your phone to your pharmacist)!
  • Go to www.goodrx.com on your phone or computer to print, email or text a new coupon.

GoodRx discounts are still accepted at Walmart and Sam’s Club.

If you have issues using a GoodRx discount at a Walmart or Sam’s Club, please have the pharmacist call 1-866-921-7286.

Thanks!


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