Welcome to the Delta Care Rx Blog

The contents of this blog contain topics relevant to end of life care written by our own hospice clinical pharmacists. Continue to check this site regularly for the newest post or subscribe to the RSS feed below.
Drew Mihalyo, PharmD has not set their biography yet
Drew Mihalyo, PharmD

Notes from the @AAHPM #Twitter Board: A Pharmacist’s Reflections on #hpm17

33527360640 3920cb148b o

Self-reflection is a powerful tool for integrating the experiences and messages of the spring conference of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care. As President & COO of Delta Care Rx, I met a lot of people, many of whom I hope to speak with again at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s 32nd Annual Management & Leadership Conference in April.

Here is my “Top 5” idea list, supported by the wise words of a range of colleagues who said it best on the event’s public Twitter Board using #hhpm17. I look forward to learning more in the days ahead.

#1 – We’re educating “Policymakers” every day

The clinicians attending – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and advanced students – offer vital contributions to a nation with a rapidly aging population. Hospice care made its debut almost half a century ago, but we may at times find we’re still educating policymakers about palliative care, hospice, and professional practice.

End of life care issues have gained new traction due to recent political rhetoric. I recently cut through the noise of the Aid In Dying debate to suggest proactive approaches for pharmacists. Here, Andi Chatburn shares a statement by Mark Ganz, responding to public remarks made by Senator Paul Cruz:

Thoxbee Me replaces it with a simple message and clear defining characteristic, which supersedes politics.

The practitioner versus clinician debate is tied directly to the way professionals are perceived by the public and lawmakers. Thomas W. LeBlanc and Drew Rosielle hone in on a possible strategy for the way professionals might choose to refer to themselves and their roles.

#2 – Effective, affordable pain management is integral to palliative care and patient quality of life.

A lot of the conversation coming out of the conference focused on the use of opioids and dose tapering. As a pharmacist, this was a topic that I certainly found interesting. At Delta Care Rx, colleagues and I are part of this discussion with Physicians and Nurses who utilize our On Demand Pharmacist Services (ODPS). These services supplement an interdisciplinary approach regarding Conditions of Participation, or complaint medication management.

Colleague Sarah Scott Dietz kindly provided a photo of the summary on opioids presented at the conference, and it provides context for the discussion around these specific class of medications, as listed below.

Admittedly, I’m relatively new to Twitter as a live platform for sharing information across the discipline. I’ll share a few of those posts that had relevance for me here. The first set of responses focused on pain management options in a positive vein.

Methadone: “I love methadone” most common phrase heard at our exhibit. (Virtual Hospice)

Midazolam: “Intranasal and buccal midazolam – safe, effective and inexpensive in treating seizures! Better than lorazepam/diazepam,” (Armida Parala Metz)

Levorphanol: “treatment for phantom pain” (Marvin Delgado-Guay); “can you even get levorphanol? I tried 1 or 2 years ago. Got blanked,” from Dr. The Frog, aka Skip Bidder. Akhila Reddy MD notes “Levorphanol available now but have to pre-order it, expect pharmacy to take 2 to 3 days to get it.” Levorphanol is a “forgotten opioid” (Marvin Delgado-Guay) and “more education and research needed.”

Cannibis: "I do know that no one dies of a marijuana overdose because there are no cannabanoid receptors in the brainstem." (Courtney Simmons)

Naloxene kit: “If your patient is on opioid & benzo consider ordering a naloxone kit-will need PA may have to pay out of pocket, talk with their pharm.” (Kimberly Curseen)

Other pain management options were treated with more skepticism, with posts of the Pharm Ladies seminar by attendee Courtney Simmons.

Codeine: “We should just vote codeine off the island.”

Sufentanil: “…not impressed with sufentanil, think best use may be on the battlefield or other places we can’t give parenteral.”

Amtiza: “Post marketing warning for syncope and hypotension. …warning of high cost & not much better efficacy.”

Kratom: “Can produce opioid effect with abuse, being rescheduled as C-1. Currently an herbal.” (a relative of the coffee plant)

Documentation processes were found to be critical for success. Being able to collect prescribing data is a must when defining a path forward. While many organizations have access to reports that help with this documentation or tracking of patterns, often the actual prescribing information is lacking granularity that can be instead accessed on the front end (of the ordering process) when e-Prescribing technology is utilized to the fullest extent. Shireen Heidari expressed the need for thorough documentation at a GIP level, saying:

#3:Starting with the telephone call, possible transition to tele-health technology or telemedicine options are the way of the future in some care scenarios.


LeBlanc offered a caution that the way ahead for #palliativecare is patient needs, not prognosis. Shirley Otis-Green and Kyle Edmonds suggest the need for data-driven decision making within the field.

#4. Inter-professional education for pharmacists, nurses, and care teams will develop communicative leaders offering patients a range of skill sets and abilities.

Socialization, mentoring, internships, curriculum design, and human sources of inspiration will fuel professional commitment within the growing field.


I read with particular interest the discussion of curriculum for interns, fellows, and other clinicians entering the field. Delta Care Rx offers a comprehensive internship program for pharmacists in our Pittsburgh, PA area offices via our Delta Campus educational program. We have also support the next generation of both nurses and pharmacists via collaborative efforts with clients of ours in their local communities.

The curriculum in each case offers exposure to the very important  interdisciplinary care team and student-mentor approach. We see a continuous call to action for these types of learning initiatives from AAHPM members. Last year, we partnered with Four Seasons Compassion for Life in North Carolina to develop a similar curriculum for nurses entering hospice and palliative care professions. You can learn more online about that in our news release and a magazine feature.

Once operating in our profession, the next generation is inspired by leaders in the field and their interests are encouraged in special interests groups.

#5. Palliative Care professionals require self-nurturance for long term success.

The best “medicine” for caregivers does not come in a bottle, but instead: time in nature, inner work, the desire to transform, self-awareness, cultural reflection, and self-care.


Finally, we welcome the feeling of satisfaction that comes from learning/growing personally and professionally (while celebrating the lives we touch).

Drew Mihalyo, PharmD is Founder, President, and COO at Delta Care.

About Delta Care:
Delta Care – http://www.deltacarerx.com/, transforms and improves the hospice pharmacy industry through business transparency, innovation, extreme customer service, and the maintenance of vital community-pharmacy relationships. As a pharmacist owned, privately held provider, Delta Care sets the industry benchmark for pharmacy benefit management, on-demand pharmacist services, and hospice tailored electronic prescribing. Additionally, Delta Care offers tools and technologies to simplify essential workflow and ordering processes within hospice settings.

DCRx Logo Partnership 300dpi JPG

Continue reading
2409 Hits
Drew Mihalyo, PharmD

What Do You Need to Know About State Opt-out Provisions, Access and Costs?

mortar 321795 1920A January 2017 article in the New York Times suggests concerns for pharmacists in the hospice care sector concerned with “aid in dying” impacts on practice and care

Last month, the New York Times ran an article, “Physician Aid in Dying Gains Acceptance in the U.S.” It outlines the current “Aid in Dying” debate among hospice and palliative care physicians and providers. Questions raised through this debate create ethical, legal, and professional issues for pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies.

The goal here is not to discuss the moral or ethical dilemmas each of us necessarily considers deeply and personally. For those who would like to do so, a 2011 article in “American Journal of Health System Pharmacy” may prove useful. Also, “Aid-In-Dying Practice in the United States Legal and Ethical Perspectives for Pharmacy,” was published in Research in Social and Administration Pharmacy (Summer 2016). The JAMA Journal from January 2016 focused on diverse issues clinicians face in death, dying, and end of life.

Additionally, clinicians may also wish to refer to position statements on the issues issued by American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) and Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA).

Here, we’ll focus on implications of mainstream coverage in the January 2017 New York Times article. Specifically, this piece will address two issues with relevance to pharmaceuticals: state opt-out provisions, access and costs.

Issue 1: State Opt-Out Provisions
The New York Times article states that in the U.S. states that have opt out provisions for hospice physicians: “State opt-out provisions allow any individual or institution to decline to provide prescriptions.” It follows logically that pharmaceutical industry professionals would have a similar ability to decline to provide prescriptions.
Opt out provisions are determined at the state level. State laws impact pharmaceutical professionals, informing practices and procedures. State legislatures determine laws regarding professional pharmaceutical practice and govern access to particular types of medical procedures. Statutes differ from state to state, and may or may not resemble industry policy. We have a responsibility to remain current in our area of expertise.

Issue 2: Access and Costs
The article also delineates cost and access concerns of patients who would choose to end their pain and suffering by ending their lives. Less than one percent of hospice and palliative care patients in the four U.S. states with “Aid in Dying” provisions ever choose to exercise those rights. Those few hospice patients require access to a pharmacist willing to fill their prescriptions. Then, cost becomes a factor.

The New York Times notes the increase in cost for barbiturates from a couple of hundred dollars in years past, to $3-4,000 after insurance. The article reveals that Valeant Pharmaceuticals acquired Seconal, a commonly prescribed barbiturate, in advance of California’s 2015 legislation. Then, the company deliberately “spiked the price.”

Apart from ethics concerns, we are left with more questions than answers.
• Should pharmaceutical companies inflate costs for formerly affordable prescription drugs?
• How should price be determined?
• What mark-up can consumers realistically expect to pay for a prescription?

These types of questions have both broad and situational implications within pharmaceutical professions. We might also ask if intended usage of the drug should determine market price, or if substitutions are appropriate in terminal cases.

Without doubt, informed hospice pharmacists remain critical to pain and symptom management teams for those with serious illness or at end of life.

Drew Mihalyo is founder and president of Delta Care Rx.

About Delta Care Rx:
Delta Care Rx – http://www.deltacarerx.com/ – transforms and improves the hospice pharmacy industry through business transparency, innovation, extreme customer service, and the maintenance of vital community-pharmacy relationships. As a pharmacist owned, privately held provider, Delta Care Rx sets the industry benchmark for pharmacy benefit management, on-demand pharmacist services, and hospice tailored electronic prescribing.

Continue reading
1987 Hits