Retail pharmacy chains have moved ahead with recommendations from the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) that aim to promote the safe use of acetaminophen.

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NCPDP: Rx chains take action on acetaminophen safety

January 31st, 2013

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Retail pharmacy chains have moved ahead with recommendations from the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) that aim to promote the safe use of acetaminophen.

NCPDP said Thursday that "compelling progress" has been made since its 2011 release of a set of guidelines for protecting consumers and patients from accidental acetaminophen overdose, titled "NCPDP Recommendations for Improved Prescription Container Labels for Medicines Containing Acetaminophen Version 1.1."

Leading pharmacy retailers such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Target have implemented or committed to a phased implementation of NCPDP's recommendations to produce prescription labels with the complete spelling of acetaminophen, eliminating use of abbreviations such as "acet" or "APAP," NCPDP reported.

And through a collective action by the national drug database publishers, most retail pharmacies have prioritized the standard acetaminophen warning label in the top three warnings for prescription medicines.

"Walgreens is committed to patient safety by avoiding the use of 'APAP' and adopting the complete spelling of 'acetaminophen' whenever possible," Averill Gordon, manager of pharmacy quality assurance at Walgreen Co., said in a statement. "We will continue to explore other ways we can help raise awareness among our patients about their medication to help keep them safe."

The recommendations issued in 2011 called on the health care industry to adopt measures to help patients avoid accidental overdose of acetaminophen, enabling them to identify when their prescriptions contain acetaminophen, compare active ingredients on over-the-counter and prescription drug labels, and avoid the use of two medicines that contain acetaminophen at a time.

"Liver injury from acetaminophen overdose remains a serious public health problem," stated Janet Woodcock, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "NCPDP's leadership in working with the pharmacy system industry to develop and implement these voluntary standards continues to be an effective complement to FDA's regulatory and educational efforts to improve the safe use of acetaminophen-containing medicines."

NCPDP said Thursday it has released an updated white paper to report on the advances made in the industry's implementation of its acetaminophen safety recommendations.

"When patient health and safety are at stake, we must take action. We believe all health care industry stakeholders should share accountability for protecting patients before their bottom line," noted Lee Ann Stember, president of NCPDP. "This update to our white paper provides additional guidance for those industry stakeholders who have not yet implemented the new pharmacy labeling practices for acetaminophen-containing medicines."

An NCPDP bulletin on the updated white paper raises such safety points as making it a policy for pharmacy staff to tell patients when dispensed medicine contains an opioid and acetaminophen, ensuring that Rx staff know that acetaminophen is an ingredient in over 600 OTC and prescription medications, and asking pharmacy staff to think about how they can help patients be better informed about using acetaminophen-containing medicines safely.