If you have asthma you may be used to walking in to a pharmacy and asking the Pharmacist for a Ventolin or Asmol puffer to treat asthma symptoms. Did you know that as of March 2020 it is not so easy to obtain a puffer from a pharmacy?
Ventolin/Asmol regulation changes
These puffers can now only be supplied to people who can show evidence of being diagnosed with a lung condition such as asthma or COPD or previous recorded supply of this medicine. Only one puffer can be supplied at a time unless it is on prescription.
What evidence can be given to show that a lung condition has been diagnosed?
- Letter from your Doctor stating that Ventolin or Asmol is needed to treat a lung condition
- Asthma management plan from you Doctor
- Previous history in the pharmacy’s computing program showing that asthma medicines have been prescribed
- Previous supply history shown in My Health Record
- Asthma medicine showing the label confirming that it is for that person, a photo of this medicine is also suitable
Why were asthma medicine regulations changed?
At the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic there was much panic buying. These asthma medicines were in as much demand as toilet paper. In order to control the supply of these medicines legislation was changed to limit the supply to one puffer and only with evidence of asthma or COPD diagnosis. These puffers must also now be labelled through the computer program which also records the supply of the item.
My QuitBuddy app
Between January and May this year the My QuitBuddy app had an increase in downloads of 310%! This means it was downloaded 24000 times! Unless there was a shortage in cigarettes (which I didn’t hear about) during the height of COVID 19 hopefully the app downloads led to more people quitting smoking. Especially in times of isolation using an app such as this lets you know you are not alone and can be a source of great help in quitting.
Smoking and COVID 19
Smokers are more likely to have severe symptoms if they contract COVID 19 than those who don’t smoke. Smokers are more likely to have cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes and other health conditions that may make them more likely to have a worse outcome if they have COVID 19. There isn’t evidence to say they are more likely to contract it though no doubt the virus scared some of those who smoke into quitting.
This is hard! It is acknowledged that quitting smoking is very difficult. Pharmacists and Doctors are able to help with knowledge and advice about products that may be right for you. Everyone is different and so different products and ways of quitting are appropriate for different people. Patches, lozenges, chewing gum, mouth spray etc are available to help you wean off cigarettes and nicotine. I also know people who have quit through hypnosis. If you are wanting to quit enlist the support of your Doctor, Pharmacist, family and friends, purchase a product if you would like to use it to quit, down load an app such as My QuitBuddy to give you all the help you can get and make a date to quit!
In 2019 the American Heart Association published an article giving tips on checking blood pressure correctly.
Taking the reading
Before checking it is preferable to sit resting in a chair for 3-5 minutes to obtain an accurate resting reading.
Blood pressure can vary in each arm so it is recommended that it be checked in both arms and whichever arm gives the higher reading is the arm that should be used to check blood pressure each time.
It’s important to NOT cross your legs when your blood pressure is being checked as this can lead to a higher reading.
Sitting on a chair or bed without back support can lead to a higher reading.
Readings should preferably be taken on bare skin however they can be taken over clothing as long as the clothing is not rolled up as this can constrict the area and elevate the reading.
There should be NO talking while a measurement is being taken.
Make sure the cuff is large enough. If a cuff is used that is too small it can give a higher reading.
White coat hypertension
Sometimes it is found that patients’ blood pressure readings are higher when checked by a Doctor (who traditionally wore a white coat) as opposed to being checked elsewhere. It is for this reason that Doctor’s sometimes suggest that someone have their blood pressure checked in a pharmacy to see if the reading is similar.
Measuring blood pressure yourself
For most people it is not necessary to check your own blood pressure and this usually leads to unnecessary worrying. There are some situations where your Doctor might ask you to check it for a period of time and record the readings to show them.
How do I receive my prescription medicine after a Telehealth appointment?
A lot of GP appointments are now being held via Telehealth ie appointments are taking place over the phone or other electronic means in preference to visiting your GP in person. This seems to be working well however there is some confusion, for Pharmacists and GP’s also, about what happens with your prescription that is issued during this consultation.
Electronic prescribing was due to occur in Australia this year even before COVID-19 was around. This is now being fast tracked so that it will hopefully be available in the next few months. In the mean time the government has introduced telehealth prescriptions which are one way prescriptions can be received and dispensed up until 30th September 2020.
What it a Telehealth prescription?
In all Australian states, except Queensland, prescriptions are able to be faxed or emailed to a pharmacy for most medicines and supplied to patients. If there are repeats ordered on these prescriptions the repeats must stay at the pharmacy and so all further repeats must be obtained from that pharmacy.
Prescriptions from Telehealth consultations may not be Telehealth prescriptions!
If the GP decides to post the prescription to the pharmacy after faxing/emailing then a valid repeat may be available to be collected by or posted to the patient. This means it is no longer a Telehealth prescription.
Yes. It’s confusing for us Pharmacists too as we are not sure which way the GP will go.
Some medicines can not be obtained on Telehealth prescriptions
There are certain medicines that GP’s must send the prescription to the pharmacy for. Medicines that are classed as schedule 8 or schedule s4d fall into this group. If you are not sure if you take medicines in these schedules just ask your Pharmacist.
Reclassification of some medicines
Some medicines that were not previously in schedule s4d were placed into this schedule on 17th April. What does this mean? Medicines such as pregabalin (Lyrica), tramadol, (Tramal), quetiapine (Seroquel), zolpidem (Stilnox) and zopiclone (Imovane) now have a prescription expiry of 6 months when they previously lasted 12 months. This means that if you have a prescription for any of these items that was written more than 6 months ago your prescription is now out of date! This is going to be a problem for many unsuspecting patients. Please talk to your GP as soon as you can if you are in this situation.
What is gout?
Gout is a type of arthritis. Attacks can occur rapidly and are very painful. Gout usually affects the big toe though it can occur in the rest of the feet, ankles, knees, hands, wrists, elbows and even ears.
What causes gout?
Gout occurs when there is too much uric acid in the blood stream and instead of this uric acid leaving the body through our kidneys it turns into uric acid crystals in joints.
Causes of increased uric acid include;
- Too much alcohol especially beer
- Eating foods high in purines such as red meat, seafood
- Taking diuretics
- Having certain medical conditions; diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol
- Being overweight
Males and those with a family history of gout are also more likely to suffer with it.
Symptoms of gout
Joints affected by gout are red, swollen and painful. They can also look shiny. Gout can be so painful that the sufferer can not bear anything touching the joint.
Treatment of gout
Anti-inflammatories are the first level of treatment for gout and some of these can be obtained over the counter from your Pharmacist. There are also medications available from your Doctor to treat an attack if anti-inflammatories aren’t appropriate.
If someone suffers with recurrent attacks then a medication may be prescribed by your Doctor to prevent gout attacks from occurring. These preventative medicines need to be taken every day even if an attack occurs. In this instance treatment medicine can be used in addition.