Welcome to our Blog

Wise Words Wednesday Blog

This series features answers to some of the most frequently asked questions our pharmacists receive, as well as information on all the latest research surrounding biologics and the conditions they treat.

Please note: Did you previously sign up for our #WiseWordsWendesday blog? We are re-launching our mailing list and require that everyone register again online. Forgot to sign up in the first place? Now’s your chance:

Subscribe to Wise Words Wednesday blog posts:


You can also find the blog each week on Facebook:

 

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Traveling with Biologics: Tips for a Smooth Journey

Traveling can be an exciting adventure, but if you’re on biologic medication for an autoimmune condition, it requires some extra planning. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend getaway or embarking on an extended vacation, here are some tips to help you travel smoothly while managing your biologic treatments.

Plan your Doses

Ensure you have enough medication for the entire trip, plus a few extra days’ worth in case of delays. If you’re traveling across time zones, adjust your medication schedule as needed to maintain consistent dosing, if necessary.

Packing your Biologic

To keep your biologic medication at the right temperature (2-8 degrees Celsius), pack it in a cooler bag. Place an ice pack at the bottom, followed by a layer of cardboard or bubble wrap. Next, place your medication on top, add another layer of cardboard or bubble wrap, and finish with another ice pack. This setup should keep your medication cold for 6-8 hours. It would be a good idea to test your cooler using a thermometer and ice packs to mimic the time you will be in transit.

If your trip duration is longer than 6-8 hours, you may request the flight attendant to keep your medication in the airplane’s fridge. However, in case that is not possible, make sure to carry ziplock bags with you to get ice from the attendant.

Always carry your biologic medication in your carry-on bag. Checked luggage can be subjected to extreme temperatures and rough handling, which can damage your medication.

Have Documentation Ready

We will gladly provide you with a travel letter along with a copy of your prescription to help avoid issues at airport security and border crossings.

Store Medication Properly

Once you arrive at your destination, ensure your biologic is stored properly. If it needs refrigeration, confirm that your hotel room has a fridge, or use the hotel’s mini-bar fridge if necessary. Some hotels can provide a medical fridge upon request.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your travels are as smooth and enjoyable as possible while managing your biologic treatment. Bon voyage!

Joyce Ayad is a 4th year pharmacy student from the University of Waterloo, currently completing her final rotation at Charlton Health. She believes in providing patient-focused care, supported by her previous experience working with specialty drugs, the pharmaceutical industry, and more. Joyce is eager to become a licensed pharmacist this year.

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

New Pneumonia Vaccine Approved in the United States

Most people are aware that pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can cause cough, thick discoloured mucus, shortness of breath and fever.  It can be caused by a bacteria, virus or fungi.   What is not commonly known is that bacterial pneumonia (called streptococcus pneumoniae), can go beyond the lungs. This is called invasive pneumococcal disease.  When the infection enters the bloodstream, it is known as bacteremia.  When the infection reaches the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord, it is called pneumococcal meningitis. These are very serious infections requiring hospitalization.   Even pneumococcal pneumonia, affecting just the lungs causes 150,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year.

There are about 100 types of pneumococcal bacteria.  The newest pneumonia vaccine approved in the United States protects against 21 of those types.  The great news is that the 21 strains chosen for the vaccine,  actually protect against 84% of invasive pneumococcal disease.  This is the greatest level of protection available in a pneumococcal vaccine to date.  It will be a single dose that is expected to provide long-term protection. The name of the vaccine is Capvaxive and it is produced by Merck.  We look forward to this vaccine coming to Canada soon. 

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Medications that May Increase Your Sensitivity to Sunlight: An Update

With summer around the corner, time spent outside enjoying the warmth is to be expected.  Therefore, it is time to revisit an important topic that we posted last year: drug-induced sun sensitivity reactions.

At least 387 different medications can cause sun sensitivity reactions. It is important to take precautions when seeing an auxiliary label on your prescription warning of sun exposure. These colourful warning labels put on your prescription are important. The sun warning label is usually bright yellow with an image of a sun.  Anti-inflammatory medications fall in this group with naproxen likely to have the greatest impact. Other medications used by many of our blog followers that are part of this sun-sensitivity category include pirfenidone, sulfasalazine, and hydroxychloroquine. Interestingly, methotrexate can cause a reaction known as radiation recall, causing irritation in areas where you have had a past sunburn.

Protecting yourself from the sun calls to mind the famous phrase: SLIP, SLAP, and SLOP.  Slip on a long sleeve shirt and pants that protect you from the sun, slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and slop on sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater. Broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB are preferred, although most drug-related sun sensitivity reactions are caused by UVA. This is because UVA radiation penetrates much deeper into the skin compared to UVB. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and needs to be reapplied throughout the day, especially after swimming or excessive sweating.  We advise looking for sunscreens that have been endorsed by the Canadian Dermatology Association, which will be evident on the label. Of course, seeking out shade is key, especially during the peak sun hours of 11AM – 4PM. Lastly, tanning beds should be used cautiously or avoided all-together, as their UV radiation can significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. (read more here.)

If you experience a sun sensitivity reaction, please seek medical attention as prescription medications may be needed to manage the reaction.

Kunal Bhatt, RPh, PharmD, HBSc is a staff pharmacist for Charlton Health. As a 2020 PharmD graduate from the University of Toronto, Kunal possesses a diverse range of experiences from working in hospital and community pharmacy settings. Kunal was heavily invested in contributing to the efforts against COVID-19 by administering upwards of 5000 COVID-19 vaccines at William Osler Health System’s vaccination clinics. 

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options Increase

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) have a major impact on an individual’s life. The number of individuals living with IBD in Canada is growing rapidly. In their 2023 report, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada found that roughly 0.8% (322,600 people) of the Canadian population lived with IBD and this number was expected to rise to 1.1% (470,000) in 2035. The number of new diagnoses is rising most rapidly in children under the age of 6. Read more about the report here.

Lately, many advancements have been made in the treatments for ulcerative colitis. One of the latest updates includes a new oral treatment, called etrasimod (Velsipity). Etrasimod is thought to work by preventing the movement of immune cells from the lymphatic system, a collection of organs and tissues that defend the body against diseases. This should reduce the number of immune cells circulating in the body, therefore, reducing the amount of cells that reach the intestine. It is meant to be taken as one tablet once daily. Given that the number of treatments available in tablet-form are quite limited when managing ulcerative colitis, etrasimod is an exciting new option available to patients if deemed appropriate. We at Charlton Health are excited to work with physicians to get our patients started on the newest therapies in Canada.

Parvinder Sahota is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Kunal Bhatt, RPh, PharmD, HBSc is a staff pharmacist for Charlton Health. As a 2020 PharmD graduate from the University of Toronto, Kunal possesses a diverse range of experiences from working in hospital and community pharmacy settings. Kunal was heavily invested in contributing to the efforts against COVID-19 by administering upwards of 5000 COVID-19 vaccines at William Osler Health System’s vaccination clinics. 

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Ankylosing Spondylitis Awareness Month

Ankylosing Spondylitis Awareness Month, observed each year in May, is one of several health promotion events celebrated and endorsed by Health Canada and serves as a crucial opportunity to shed light on a chronic inflammatory disease that affects thousands of people in Canada. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily impacts the spine, causing pain, stiffness, and in some cases, fusion of the vertebrae. It can also affect the knees, hips, eyes, and the gastrointestinal tract, significantly impacting quality of life.

Through efforts of raising awareness, Ankylosing Spondylitis Awareness Month is aimed to increase the general understanding of the disease among the public and healthcare professionals, reducing diagnostic delays and ensuring timely access to treatment. Awareness fosters growth in the Spondyloarthritis community, advocating for new and improved advanced therapies, and improving patient quality of life.

Charlton Health Pharmacy is proud to support patients with AS through a multidisciplinary approach, working with allied health care professionals and ensuring our patients receive care of the highest quality. Some of these services include counselling on advanced therapies (ex. biologics), reimbursement navigation support, and providing access to infusion clinics across Ontario. Ultimately, Ankylosing Spondylitis Awareness Month is an opportunity to showcase the resilience of patients living with AS. Please see the Canadian Spondyloarthritis Association (CSA) for more information, resources, and support groups for people living with AS and their caregivers.  

Parvinder Sahota is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Saphnelo for Lupus

Saphnelo (anifrolumab) is a one-of-a-kind therapy by AstraZeneca for the treatment of moderate to severe systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). In December of 2023, Saphnelo was approved for coverage under the Ontario Exceptional Access Program (EAP).

SLE is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system creates widespread inflammation in many parts of the body. This leads to a variety of symptoms which include rashes, fever, and pain in the joints. Saphnelo works by blocking the activity of the type 1 interferon receptor, stopping the signaling (the type 1 interferons) that would lead to inflammation. As a result, the immune system can control the inflammation, and improve symptoms and the quality of life for patients with SLE.

Saphnelo is given as an intravenous infusion over 30 minutes, every 4 weeks. Currently, it is only approved to be used in adults.

The Charlton Health team is excited to work with specialists to bring Saphnelo to our patients with lupus.

Parvinder Sahota is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

A New Treatment Option for Alopecia Areata

On December 4, 2023, Health Canada approved Pfizer’s Litfulo (ritlecitinib). Litfulo is a once-daily oral capsule used for the treatment of patients over 12 years old with severe alopecia areata.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system produces inflammation at the body’s hair follicles. This results in partial to complete loss of body hair. Litfulo reduces the excess signaling to the immune system and lowers inflammation in the hair follicles.

Similarly, Olumiant (baricitinib), developed by Eli Lilly, was also approved as a once-daily oral treatment for severe alopecia areata in adults earlier this year. This is in addition to its current use for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

The introduction of new treatments like Litfulo and the approval of using existing treatments in new conditions is exciting for us at Charlton, as a growing variety of treatments can be considered for patients with the greatest needs. It is important to note that the best treatment option for each individual can vary, and this decision should be made in collaboration with your specialist.

Parvinder Sahota is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Infliximab Now Available As An Injection for Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Patients

Infliximab is a protein-based medication referred to as a biologic that treats many immune-mediated conditions.  The original manufacturer of this medication is Janssen, and they named it Remicade. In the last several years other manufacturers have produced infliximab as biosimilars. Some of these include Avsola, Inflectra, and Renflexis. The medication was given intravenously in an infusion clinic.  

The exciting news is that the manufacturer Celltrion now has a form of infliximab that can be injected instead of requiring you to attend an infusion clinic.  This injection format has been available for a few years for patients with rheumatoid arthritis but in February there was a new approval for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

For inflammatory bowel conditions, the first three doses will be given at weeks 0, 2, and 6 as infusions.  This is followed by an injection every 2 weeks, starting from week 10.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can follow the same schedule as above or have the option to start directly with the injections weekly for the first 5 doses followed by a maintenance dose every 2 weeks.  

At Charlton, we work with referring physicians, patients, and drug company support programs to help secure the best coverage for these specialty medications.

Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain, and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

A New Treatment For Ulcerative Colitis

On October 3rd, 2023, Health Canada approved Eli Lilly’s newest biologic for the treatment of moderate to severe active ulcerative colitis (UC) called Omvoh. With a limited number of therapies available for UC in Canada, the introduction of a new advanced treatment is another step towards giving Canadians living with UC additional personalized treatment options.

Omvoh reduces excess signaling to the immune system and therefore prevents the production of inflammation in the gut lining. The actual signaling chemical it lowers is called interleukin-23 (IL-23).  Another medication that works in a similar way is Skyrizi (risankizumab), however, it is only approved for Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis. Stelara (ustekinumab) is another approved treatment option in UC and Crohn’s disease which lowers both signaling chemicals; IL-12 and IL-23.

The starting dose of Omvoh for UC is 300mg given as an infusion every 4 weeks for 3 doses. The infusions last roughly 30 minutes each. This is followed by 2 injections (=200mg) every 4 weeks. The injection is available as an autoinjector or pre-filled syringe.

Working with your gastroenterologist, Charlton Health is excited to provide our patients with this newly available treatment. 

Parvinder Sahota is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment

Show Love to your Heart

As February is heart month, today is an excellent occasion to really show why we love our hearts and how we can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease.  Many studies have shown that patients who have autoimmune conditions are at higher risk of developing heart-related problems such as heart attacks and strokes.  This is in addition to the risks from other conditions and lifestyles like smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. There are several changes we can make to our lifestyles to reduce heart disease risk and ensure our heart is always loved.

The first step is eating healthy, and a well-balanced diet will also help maintain a healthy weight. Canada’s food guide is a great place to start learning about portions, healthy recipes, and other tips. Click on the following link to access Canada’s food guide: Canada’s Food Guide.

The next step is to address movement and sleep.  The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) has created a diagram for each age group that shows the recommended time of physical activity and sleep required to keep our heart healthy, along with limiting inactive/sedentary time.

Ex. Adults aged 18-64:

·         Physical Activity – 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise which can be spread out throughout the week.

·         Sleep – 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep with consistent wake-up/bedtime.

·         Sedentary lifestyle – less than 3 hours of recreational screen time and minimizing long periods of sitting.  

Click on the following link to access their resources: 24-Hour Movement Guidelines – Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines (csepguidelines.ca)

Our heart never takes a break for us. It pumps for 24 hours and 7 days a week. Let’s do our part to show our hearts some love by making healthy lifestyle choices.

Parvinder is a clinical pharmacist and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto. He enjoys learning about the ever-evolving field of autoimmune conditions and their treatment options.  

Posted in The Charlton Centre | Leave a comment