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Capito cites health industry changes at UC pharmacy school

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., visited the University of Charleston's School of Pharmacy on Friday to learn more about what the newly founded school is doing to educate West Virginia's future pharmacists.

Capito said she was interested in touring the school during National Pharmacy Month.

The role of pharmaceuticals, prescription drug abuse and the recently passed Affordable Care Act are all important issues before Congress, Capito said when she visited the campus in Kanawha City.

Dean Michelle R. Easton, who led Friday's tour, said the UC School of Pharmacy focuses its students on the individual personal needs of patients, not simply on filling their prescriptions.

The pharmacy school's website points out: "From the beginning, we envisioned a different kind of school of pharmacy -- one where the role of pharmacy was shaped by community-focused students and caring, hands-on faculty in an intimate environment."

Easton said, "We want our graduates to educate patients on how to effectively use their medications.

"And today, pharmacists often provide immunization shots to patients, especially college age and elderly people."

Capito and Easton both believe new federal legislation will lead to increased demands for health-care providers.

"There will be a shortage of physicians, a shortage of family practitioners," Easton predicted. "As pharmacists, we are often underutilized. We need to use pharmacists to a greater capacity."

Capito said the impacts of the "Affordable Health Care Act may not become obvious immediately." But there will soon be an "expansion of insured folks and an explosion of people seeking care."

"There is expected to be a shortage of physicians, as well as physician assistants, physical therapists, nursing homes and home health-care workers," Capito said. "And there will be a 28 percent cut in Medicare at the end of the year."

Capito believes education is an issue to help combat "dangers of overdoses" from some pharmaceutical drugs.

"Today, if you look at miners and truck drivers, 4 out of 10 of them cannot pass drug tests."

They often pass their initial scheduled drug tests, she said, but then fail subsequent "surprise" drug tests administered after they are employed.

Easton said, "With today's prescription drug crisis, health professionals need to be educated to show people how to use and take medication."

The UC School of Pharmacy also schedules four days a year when people can return their unused pharmaceuticals, so they are not abused by others or thrown into the trash or flushed down toilets -- polluting our land and waters, Easton said.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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