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Morton Times-News - Morton, IL
  • Letters to the Editor: Nov. 14

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  • A compounding pharmacist
     
    I am a compounding pharmacist.
     
    Three months ago, most Americans would have shrugged at that statement.
     
    Today, those same Americans would have a different reaction, and quite possibly a negative one.
     
    Compounding pharmacies are on the front pages because of the ongoing tragedy that is attributable to the actions of the New England Compounding Center, based in Massachusetts.
     
    My colleagues and I are outraged and sickened by the alleged malfeasance at NECC. They called themselves a compounding pharmacy, but in actuality they were apparently careless manufacturers who needlessly and shamefully endangered the lives of their customers.
     
    It is alleged by regulators that NECC somehow was able to skirt existing state and federal laws and operate its business by shortchanging quality. That is not what a compounding pharmacist does.
     
    What is a compounding pharmacist?
     
    We make drugs for people who can’t take conventional medications that are manufactured by big companies. We customize cancer medications; we produce specialized drugs for children with autism; we make intravenous solutions. We also can compound medications when a conventional medication is unavailable, something that is happening more often as of late.
     
    We are your local pharmacist, and we make some of the drugs that many of you take to make your lives better. We are also located in hospitals and help customize medications for their patients.
     
    Every pharmacist is trained to compound medicines. More than half of all local pharmacies provide compounding services, with more than 7,500 pharmacies in the United States that specialize in compounding. In addition, there are about 8,200 pharmacies associated with hospitals and other health institutions that engage in compounding.
     
    In short, compounding pharmacists fill the needs of patients who have unique health needs that can’t be met by off-the-shelf, manufactured medications. These personalized medications, prescribed by licensed practitioners and prepared under strictly controlled conditions by specially trained compounding pharmacists, are the only way to better health for these individuals.
     
    What we don’t do is manufacture big batches of drugs and then send them off at cut-rate prices across the country, which is what NECC is alleged to have done. We don’t know all the details about what NECC was up to and why they weren’t stopped before this tragedy happened, but we do know some facts.
     
     We do know that NECC had been cited by the FDA and by Massachusetts State regulators.
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    We also know that neither the FDA nor Massachusetts state regulators followed up effectively on their warnings, because the misbehavior continued. We know that the NECC was careless with the safety of its patients. And we have now been told by officials that much of what they did was illegal.
     
    What we need to do now is find out all the facts and find out what exactly happened with the NECC and with its regulators. We need a thorough and complete assessment of state and federal laws governing the practice of pharmacy. We also must be sure that laws and regulations are enforced.
     
    Our profession is determined to work with regulators, government officials, boards, and others to ensure that the bodies charged with enforcement (FDA, DEA, state boards of pharmacy) are able to do their jobs.
     
    There have been calls for the federal Food and Drug Administration to take over regulation of pharmacies, but the FDA has always had the authority to visit and inspect any pharmacy at any time, on its own or in response to complaints. Regulators at the state level might be better positioned to enforce rules and inspect facilities than this federal agency and its very broad scope. Pharmacy licensing fee revenues should be spent on hiring and training more compliance coordinators to work with pharmacies to ensure public safety rather than being swept into general funds. Visits from compliance coordinators should be routine rather than waiting for a complaint, when there is a complaint the system has failed. We must be more proactive instead of reactive.
     
    There is an important step that can be taken immediately.
     
    All compounding pharmacists should work to become accredited by the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board. To be accredited by PCAB means that a pharmacy is operating at the highest possible level. We urge all of our colleagues to get accredited as we did. We were the second pharmacy in Illinois to become accredited. At this time less than 2 percent of the 7,500 compounding pharmacies have completed this step.
     
    The meningitis outbreak is a national tragedy. Our profession stands ready to work with leaders from government to make sure that what happened at NECC never happens again.  
    Mike Minesinger
    Illinois Pharmacist Association Compounding Section Chair & owner of Alwan Pharmacy and Compounding Center/ Morton Alwan Pharmacy
    Ruling contrary to policy
     
    On Oct. 31, 2012, The Illinois Liquor Control Commission ruled that Anheuser-Busch InBev could continue to hold an interest in four Illinois distributorships despite a law enacted June 1, 2011, which prohibits brewers from owning beer distributorships. This ruling is contrary to public policy established by our legislature and fully conflicts with Illinois’ three-tier regulatory distribution system.
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     Every state regulates alcohol by using some form of a three-tier regulatory system (manufacturer, distributor, and retailer). Distributors are intended to be an independent licensee separating a brewer from a retailer. Brewer ownership of a distributorship is vertical integration of the three-tier system thereby destroying the purpose of the three-tier system.
     
     There are also concerns about Illinois’ job loss. In 2008, ABI, a Belgium-based international corporation slashed costs of the combined company by $1.1 billion on the backs of American workers — they laid off approximately 1,400 people, about 6 percent of their U.S. workforce. By 2011, ABI was able to pay off a significant portion of the $54 billion it had borrowed to finance the Anheuser-Busch takeover, and 40 executives split $1.3 billion in stock-option bonuses. Also interesting is that this foreign entity that reaps profits from North America has no North American on its Board of Directors. Particularly since in North America, ABI generates around 42 percent of its revenue.
     
     The Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, a not for profit business trade association, represents, maintains and improves the interests of its members who distribute beer of all brewers. Distributors are licensed by the State of Illinois to import and distribute beer to licensed retailers. ABDI members directly employ more than 3,300 people across the state. They collect and pay $63 million each year in excise taxes to the state and pay more than $280 million in direct wages and health care benefits.
     
    William D. Olson
    President, Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois
    In response to Knight column
     
    I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Bill Knight’s opinion column regarding the Supreme Courts decision on Knox v SEIU Local 1000.
     
    Mr. Knight stated “the Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Knox vs SEIU Local 1000, decide in June would hamper labor by limiting member dues - unlike corporations (which use shareholder money almost any way they choose)”. Let’s examine this for just a moment.
     
    For starters, when a corporation uses shareholder money “any way they choose” (including political contributions) that money was given to those corporations VOLUNTARILY! Nobody, and I mean nobody is forcing those shareholders to continue to contribute or invest in any corporation who’s policies and contributions they do not agree. Same goes for the consumer. If a corporation is donating money to a candidate with whom that consumer disagrees, that consumer has the choice to not shop or do business with that corporation and the investor has the freedom to pull his money out of that corporation.
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    For example, when I found out that Sam Walton, Jr donated over $400,000 to the Obama campaign I vowed to never set foot in another Walmart as long as I live. I had money invested in GE. When I found out that Jeffrey Immelt (the CEO of GE) was a big Obama supporter but that he was also the largest out sourcer of jobs to China I sold off my investment and vowed to never invest in GE again and to not buy GE products ever again. That is my right and that is my choice!
     
     Unfortunately, the union worker doesn’t get that option. Full disclosure I have been involved in three public sector unions in my lifetime, (AFSCME, Police Benevolent Assoc, and the San Bernardino City Employees Union). I was even the local president for one of those. And I can tell you that all of them were as crooked as the day is long. That being said, the union workers dues are a condition of his/her employment. Therefore, the union workers money is confiscated from them forcibly and then used for political purposes to candidates with whom the union worker might disagree or not support.
     
    When I was a member of AFSCME it used to sicken me when I would receive their propaganda in the mail in the form of their newsletter, touting Bill Clinton. And it made me angry that my money was going to his campaign and my money was further being used for said propaganda. But what recourse did I have? I could not opt out of the union because it was a condition of my employment!
     
    Where is the freedom of choice in that? One could argue that, well I had the right to not work there. So let me get this straight, are the unions saying that in order for me to have a union job I MUST continue to have my money taken from me and given to political candidates that I do not support or I just don’t have to work there? So does that mean if I don’t walk in lock step with the union platform that I’m not allowed to have a good paying job? Wait I thought the unions were all about the working class. I guess they are only for the working class as long as the said working class agrees with them and the candidates that they choose.
     
    Mr. Knight further goes on to state, “Meanwhile, California’s Proposition 32 would effectively exclude unions from political activity.”
     
    That is simply a lie! No one is excluding unions from political activity. All Prop 32 says is that in order for a union to use its dues that is receives from its members for political activity, it must first get permission from said member. In other words, if a union member doesn’t mind his/her dues going to, let’s say, Barack Obama, then great, use their money to contribute to Mr. Obama’s campaign. However, if I as a union member do not want my dues to go towards political activity that I do not agree with, and it is only to be used for administration and negotiation of a contract (which is what union dues should be used for) then the union does not have the right to use my money to contribute to someone I disagree with politically.
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    If that means that it might hinder big labors contributions to a political campaign then so be it! It then becomes the job of the union to make the case, to those workers that do not want their dues used for such purposes, that the union lap dog candidate is really the right guy for the job. And if the union can’t do that, then that’s just tough beans for the union. The worker should not be forced to give money to a political campaign of either side!
     
    The problem is, the unions cant handle that concept! Which is why the American people are increasingly opposing unions (especially public sector unions). And which is why union membership continues to dwindle. The union bosses are thugs. You union members who think its so unfair as to how much money the CEO of your company makes need to ask your union how much money is the union President making! Anyone have any idea how much Richard Trumpka makes? And here’s the rub, that’s YOUR MONEY Mr. or Ms. Union Worker! And because of this I will NEVER EVER be a part of another union as long as I live. And it is why I vote union NO!
     
    Todd Mullins
    East Peoria

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