Vaccine Options for Pneumonia Prevention

By holladay | January 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

Prevnar 13: What are the benefits?

The Prevnar 13 vaccine is a single injection approved for adults over the age of 50 to help prevent infection caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Prevnar 13 contains 13 different strains of the pneumococcal bacteria that can lead to serious infection; infecting the sinuses and inner ear, the lungs, blood, and the brain. These conditions can be fatal if they are not treated properly.

This vaccine works by exposing the patient to a small amount of the bacteria or a protein from the bacteria so that the body develops an immunity to the Pneumococcal disease. Although Prevnar 13 can cause the patient’s body to develop an immunity to the disease, it will not be able to treat an active infection that has already developed within the body.

There are very few risks associated with Prevnar 13. The most common reactions to the vaccine include redness, swelling, pain at the injection site, and limitation of arm movement. A few other side effects that have been reported include fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, decreased appetite, and chills. The risk of serious side effects remains extremely low when a patient receives the vaccine.

Pneumovax 23: What are the benefits?

Pneumovax 23 is also a vaccine given in a single injection that has been approved for patients aged 50 and older to prevent infections triggered by pneumococcal bacteria. Unlike Prevnar 13, Pneumovax 23 is able to cover up to 23 different strains of the pneumococcal bacteria.

This vaccine is very similar to Prevnar 13; it exposes the patient to a small amount of the bacteria to cause the body to develop an immunity to the Pneumococcal disease. The most common side effects patients experienced include injection-site pain, soreness, tenderness, swelling, induration, and erythema, as well as headache, fatigue, and myalgia.

How do they compare?

Both Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23 are great combattants of pneumococcal bacteria infections that many adults over the age of 50 may experience. With both of these vaccines covering numerous strains of the disease, Pneumovax 23 does cover more and would be more effective against more strains than Prevnar 13. Both of these vaccines are covered by medicare but each one must alternate after one year before a patient can take the next vaccine.

If you have questions about either of these vaccines please contact one of our Holladay pharmacists at 1-800-848-3446.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring: New Technology to Combat Hypoglycemia & Improve Outcomes

By holladay | December 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

As advances in technology have continued to evolve, more and more useful tools and machines have allowed geriatric patients to effectively monitor their health. One technology that has continued to improve over the years has been that of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). Though CGM is not as accurate as traditional methods of measuring blood sugar, it is continuing to make diabetics’ lives easier and safer.


While a traditional blood glucose meter only provides a brief “snapshot” of your glucose level, Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices allow patients to regularly see where their glucose levels are headed, and whether they are increasing or decreasing after certain activities throughout the day.  With 288 glucose readings per day (a reading every 5 minutes), CGMs are also able to send early notifications of upcoming high and low points so that you can take action early. This is possible through advanced, wireless technology. By inserting a small sensor underneath the patient’s skin, along with transmitting information through radio waves to a handheld device, a patient is able to see what their glucose level is as well as predict where it will go based on past trends. With these advanced features, diabetic geriatric patients will have the ability to take action early enough to prevent issues from getting worse later in the day.


With Continuous Glucose Monitoring, guesswork is minimized. One large risk that comes with diabetes guesswork is Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when there is too much insulin in the body. When blood-sugar levels drop it can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, and headaches. It can also cause falls, seizures and loss of consciousness in diabetics. Hypoglycemia is usually more common in people with Type-2 diabetes. Studies have shown that patients over the age of 60 with Type-2 diabetes, who have an average of 40 years with the illness, spend approximately 99 minutes a day in a hypoglycemic state, including 60 minutes with a glucose level of under 60 mg/dL (Hypoglycemia is defined as a level below 70 mg/dL). With the new CGM devices, diabetic patients are able to see at what points in the day they should take action to prevent the life threatening hypoglycemia from occurring. This is especially helpful for geriatric patients that live alone and that experience hypoglycemia day and night. As these patients age, they begin to lose the ability to “feel” if they are hypoglycemic.  Therefore, CGM devices can become a life-saving option.


Even though continuous glucose monitoring does not completely eliminate the need for blood glucose meter readings, the CGM’s do provide very valuable information that can lead to quicker and more accurate treatment decisions, as well as improved glucose control. Although these CGM devices are making diabetic patients’ lives easier and safer, it is very important to check on your insurance coverage before purchasing. Because this type of monitoring is such a new technology, currently Medicare and Medicaid are not covering them. These monitors can cost close to $1,000, with ongoing costs of about $400 a year; so these devices do come with a cost. With the expensive costs and the need for calibrating, these CGM devices may not be for everyone, but they can help get a better handle on an individual’s diabetes and hypoglycemic episodes.

How the Use of Vitamin Supplements with Prescribed Medications May Cause Negative Outcomes for Your Residents

By holladay | November 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

It’s undeniable that vitamins and supplements can be beneficial for some individuals. For example, it is not uncommon for older adults to have vitamin deficiencies due to their diets. In these cases, vitamins and supplements can be very valuable. However, for older adults who have certain medical conditions and/or live certain lifestyles,  vitamins and supplements are not always as beneficial as they’re often advertised.

Taking medications along with vitamins and supplements can sometimes be harmful to your health. Many elderly persons are often drawn to the supplements labeled as “natural.” The perception is that “natural” products could never be harmful due to their “all-natural” or “herbal” properties. However, when combined with other drugs these supplements can have negative effects. When taking blood-thinning medications like Coumadin or Plavix it is important to mention these medications to your doctor before any medical procedure such as surgery; especially if you are also taking vitamin E. Vitamin E, like Coumadin or Plavix,  also causes blood thinning and prevents your blood from clotting. In addition to vitamin E, warfarin (a prescription blood thinner), ginkgo biloba (an herbal supplement), and aspirin also thin the blood. By taking any of these products together, the potential for internal bleeding or stroke increases.

When taking these extra vitamins and supplements it is very important to check with your doctor or pharmacist so that you know the risks that may be involved in taking large amounts or combining vitamins with other medications. Many see vitamins and supplements as helpful and healthy for their bodies no matter the dosage, so people often take more than the recommended daily value. A few examples include vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and vitamin A. By taking more than the recommended 2,000 mg of vitamin C, many have been plagued with kidney stones and could also suffer from bouts of diarrhea – which can lead to dehydration. The kidneys’ ability to remove toxins from the blood progressively declines with age, so dehydration can be detrimental for geriatric patients.

Other examples of how taking more than the recommended dose of vitamins can be harmful to the body are with vitamins B-6 and A.  By taking more B-6 than the recommended daily value some consequences could include temporary nerve damage to the body. When taking more vitamin A than is recommended over a short period of time,  toxic effects on your body can occur. Some of these effects include nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscular incoordination.

For more information on how the vitamins and supplements your residents are taking could be combining with their prescriptions and impacting their health please contact one of the Holladay pharmacists at 1-800-848-3446.

FDA Approves New Alzheimer’s Medication

By holladay | October 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

Although it has always been seen as an “old person” disease, Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Some of the youngest Alzheimer’s patients have ranged from their late 20’s to early 50’s; while most patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are usually age 65 and older. Due to early-onset Alzheimer’s,doctors have had to learn more about the early signs and beginning stages in patients as they appear. The early stages of the disease usually just include some mild memory loss, but once the patient enters into the moderate stage some of the symptoms include:

  • Increased memory loss and confusion
  • Problems recognizing family and friends
  • Continuously repeating stories, favorite wants, or motions
  • Difficulty doing things that have multiple steps, like getting dressed
  • Lack of concern for hygiene and appearance


As Alzheimer’s disease progresses into the severe stage, the symptoms will continue to worsen:


  • Inability to recognize oneself or family
  • Inability to communicate
  • Lack of control over bowel and bladder
  • Groaning, moaning, or grunting
  • Needing help with all activities of daily living

According to the Alzheimer’s Association the percentage of adults age 65 and older that develop Alzheimer’s will increase from 12% to 31% by the year 2025 in the state of North Carolina. With over 5.3 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s in the United States, the costs associated with caregiving is overwhelming. In North Carolina alone, the value of unpaid care totals to more than $6.2 billion.

A new drug called Namzaric has just been released to the public for helping treat Alzheimer’s disease. Being the first drug to be approved by the FDA in approximately 14 years, Namzaric combines two medications that help fight the disease and has put them into one capsule. Because of this new advancement in medication, it is a step forward in finding ways to slow down or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease from progressing. According to the website for Namzaric, this new drug will benefit the patient with:

  • An improvement in cognition, also known as mental function
  • An improvement in overall function
  • A slowdown in the worsening of symptoms for a while

Although this is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Pharmacogenetics – The Future of Customized Medication

By holladay | September 1, 2015 | 0 Comments

People respond differently to medications, and and some may even experience different side effects from prescription drugs. In fact, there are over 2 MILLION accounts of adverse drug reactions that occur annually. Although this is a frightening statistic there is an analysis called Pharmacogenetics that can help professionals understand what drugs will cause these reactions based on a person’s individual genes. Pharmacogenetics includes the process of evaluating the genes that form the specific drug targets or enzymes that metabolize a drug or are associated with immune response.

Some variables that contribute to the adverse effects prescription drugs have on a person includes physiological and environmental factors. These factors involve a person’s:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Pre-existing diseases
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol intake

Geriatric patients are more susceptible to the many adverse effects of prescription drugs due to the fact that:

  • They are prone to health problems and therefore are often taking numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • The liver is less adequate to metabolize multiple drugs
  • The kidneys are less able to remove drugs from the body, increasing the risk of kidney damage
  • Undernourishment and dehydration is more common in older people

Once a patient seeks medical help with Pharmacogenetics they will undergo a simple swab to the cheek before it is tested. A doctor analyzes these factors he/she may resolve to increase or decrease the dose or even change to a different drug. The doctor’s conclusion about which medication to advise will also be influenced by any other prescription drugs the patient is taking. This precaution is taken to avoid negative drug interactions between each medication the patient is taking.

Private Insurance covers pharmacogenetics testing in many diagnostic situations including adverse drug reactions or lack of response to medication, pain management, cancer management, and management of many co-morbid conditions.  Medicare coverage varies by plan; Medicare Advantage covers in many instances and traditional Medicare covers testing in some select cases.
For further information about pharmacogenetics please contact one of the Holladay pharmacists at 1-800-848-3446.