RxFiles Newsletters


Usually twice per year, RxFiles Academic Detailing takes a deep dive into the evidence surrounding a clinical area we think might be appreciated by our readers. We consult experts, read hundreds of articles, critically appraise the available guidelines, and consider multiple perspectives. We then create documents which help clinicians make informed drug-therapy decisions. Below you will find links to all our newsletters, dating back to 1997.


Acute Otitis Media & Other Respiratory Tract Infections

May 2024


· Raise antibiotic awareness via 5 Clinic Posters and other resources.
· Review common questions related to amoxicillin in acute otitis media (AOM).
· Consider opportunities to reassess penicillin allergies and de-label when appropriate.
· Updates to 3 Respiratory Tract Infections: Acute Bronchitis, Acute Pharyngitis, & Acute Rhinosinusitis.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/antibiotics



October 2023


· Weigh the harms and benefits of hormone replacement using our quick reference tool. 
· Systemic exposure of low dose vaginal estrogen is minimal, and it has not been linked to cardiovascular disease, dementia, or breast cancer.
· Initiating systemic hormone therapy at a low dose (e.g. PREMARIN 0.3mg, ESTRACE 0.5mg, or the 25mcg transdermal patch) is often reasonable. 

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/menopause


April 2023


· The non-drug option for anxiety with the most evidence is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Our CBT patient handout helps encourage patients to give it a try. 
· SSRI non-response can be overcome by optimizing dose and duration, or by switching therapy.  
· In patients who have difficulty tolerating SSRI titration, a benzodiazepine can help overcome SSRI-related agitation during the first 1-2 weeks.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/anxiety



November 2022


· Guide patients to the non-drug therapy that best suits their lives using our psychotherapy prescription pad
· Allow time when trialing an antidepressant (e.g. 6-8 weeks) before switching.
· Direct switching between SSRIs (without tapering) is often an option.
· Our depression colour comparison chart helps individualize therapy selection. 

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/depression


April 2022


· Typically try at least three triptans before giving up on the class. 
· Combination therapy (e.g. a triptan plus an NSAID) is more effective in acute migraine than either agent alone.  
· Candesartan is effective for migraine prophylaxis and well tolerated. 
· Often recommend NSAIDs on an empty stomach to treat migraines quickly, as food slows their absorption. 
· Starting prophylaxis for medication overuse headache can help facilitate stopping the offending medication.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/migraine


Adult Asthma

November 2021


· Around half of patients have sub-optimal inhaler technique.
· Filling a prescription for more than 2 asthma reliever canisters per year is a flag for poorly controlled asthma. 
· Budesonide-formoterol prn is an option for mild asthma, but for most patients a scheduled ICS is preferred. 

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/asthma

Prescribing Bup-Nal

May 2021


· Microdosing buprenorphine-naloxone is a way to help avoid precipitated withdrawal during initiation. 
· Traditional initiation of buprenorphine-naloxone is appropriate when patients are in acute withdrawal. 
· If precipitated withdrawal occurs during buprenorphine-naloxone initiation, pushing through the withdrawal is preferred over abanonding the inititation attempt. Medications for opioid withdrawal can help. 

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/oud


April 2021


· All sexually active adults are reasonable candidates for HIV screening
· Significant drug interactions with common HIV meds include metformin & dolutegravir; chelation & INSTIs; and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate & NSAIDs.
· Pre-exposure prophylaxis is effective and available for anyone at risk.  

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/HIV


Heart Failure

November 2020


· Some medications can reduce heart failure mortality: specific beta-blockers, ACEIs, ARBs, MRAs, and SGLT2 inhibitors, as well as sacubitril/valsartan.
· There is no target blood pressure in patients with heart failure. 
· Hyperkalemia, hypokalemia, hypotension, bradycardia, and worsening renal function are common in heart failure, but can be managed
· Diuretics do not change mortality in heart failure and should be regularly reassessed.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/heartfailure


September 2020


· Buprenorphine-naloxone is effective for opioid use disorder. 
· Buprenorphine-naloxone is safer than methadone.
· Buprenorphine-naloxone is easier to prescribe than methadone.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/oud


Spring 2020


· Biosimilar insulins, such as insulin glargine BASAGLAR, have equivalent outcomes to their brand name counterparts. 
· All prandial (meal-time) insulins have equivalent outcomes; consider cost and convenience when selecting. 
· Basal insulin selection can have a small impact on hypoglycemia risk, but there are many other higher-impact ways to reduce risk other than switching insulins. 

Visit www.rxfiles.ca/diabetes



Winter 2019; updated October 2020


· Physical activity of any kind improves insulin sensitivity (see our Exercise Rx pad).
· Hold SADMANS medications when patients with diabetes are at risk of dehydration.
· Some SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP1 agonists have shown cardiovascular benefits, but predominantly in patients with established cardiovascular disease. 

Visit www.rxfiles.ca/diabetes


June 2019


· Nonpharmacological and pharmacological approaches can help prevent falls.
· Older adults require a unique approach to prescribing medications.
· Using the tools, tips, and strategies in the Geri-RxFiles book can help care for older adults.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/geri



Fall 2018


· There are still many uncertainties with cannabis.
· At least 14% of Canadians use cannabis recreationally - routinely screen.
· Using THC roughly doubles the risk of a car crash.
· Our Cannabis: Q&A Patient Booklet is a valuable resource when having conversations about cannabis with your patients. 

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/pain

Tapering Opioids

Spring 2018


· After tapering their opioid, patients with CNCP will often have pain that is no worse, and perhaps even improved.
· Motivational interviewing can help encourage patients to taper.
· Our Opioids: Q&A Patient Booklet can help motivate patients to taper their opioid.

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/pain


Pain Management

Fall 2017


· Nonpharmacologic therapy is first-line in chronic pain.
· Let opioid dose guidelines serve the patient - not the other way around.
· Our Pain Colour Comparison Chart provides guidance towards the benefits and harms of various options.
· If prescribing opioids, do so safely

Visit: www.rxfiles.ca/pain

Antibiotics: Part 2

April 2017


· Nitrofurantoin is still effective in >95% of UTIs caused by E. coli in Saskatchewan.
· Urine cultures are not required for most symptomatic acute uncomplicated cystitis cases.
· Incision and drainage are key to successful treatment of skin abscess.
· Elevation of the affected limb is essential to successful treatment of cellulitis.  


Antibiotics: Part 1

October 2016


· Avoid antibiotics in infections that are predominantly viral (such as acute bronchitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis, and the common cold).
· Our viral prescription pad helps teach patients when they don't need an antibiotic.
· Antibiotic harms are underappreciated.
· Doxycycline covers the majority of community acquired pneumonia bugs.


March 2016


· Antithrombotics are sometimes combined to reduce the risk of thrombosis.
· Combination antithrombotic use should be for a definite duration.
· Therapy that is too short or too long increases the risk of harm.



September 2015


· Encourage smoking cessation.
· Ensure influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations.
· Pulmonary rehab of large value, especially following a COPD exacerbation.
· Assess inhaler technique regularly.
· Choose an inhalation device best suited for the patient.
· Reserve inhaled corticosteroids for after LAMA+LABA optimization. 

PPI Deprescribing

April 2015


· PPI discontinuation is possible for 14-64% of patients.
· Attempt to discontinue PPI therapy at least once per year in most patients. Exceptions to this include patients with Barrett's esophagus, Los Angeles Grade D esophagitis, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
· Tapering a PPI is more likely to succeed than abruptly stopping.



October 2014


· Cholinesterase inhibitors may be reasonable to trial in dementia, but supporting evidence is weak, tolerability is low, and benefits (if any) are usually small.
· Avoid combining cholinesterase inhibitors with anticholinergics - prioritize one or the other.
· Non-drug measures are valuable & improve quality of life in patients with dementia. 


Drugs in Older Adults

October 2013


· Insomnia: non-drug approaches effective; pain management may help; sedatives increase fall risk and benefits are small.
· UTIs: avoid ordering urine cultures in those who are asymptomatic.
· Diabetes: relax A1c targets in older adults at risk of hypoglycemia and subsequent falls. 

Atrial Fibrillation

January 2013


· Assess stroke risk in atrial fibrillation with the CHADS2 or CHA2DS2VASc scores. Assess bleeding risk with the HAS-BLED score.
· Rate control vs rhythm control - appears to be no difference in mortality or stroke risk.
· DOACs do not require INR monitoring and have fewer drug interactions, but have increased cost vs warfarin.



April 2012


· Start folic acid prior to pregnancy.
· Diabetes: insulin has the most safety data in pregnancy; metformin and glyburide may be continued.
· Hypertension: labetalol, nifedipine XL, & methyldopa are first-line in pregnancy.
· Hypothyroid: levothyroxine dose will require increase in pregnancy (e.g. 2 extra pills per week).



October 2011


· Assess for medical causes and drug causes (e.g. infection, constipation, urinary retention, anticholinergic load) in patients with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.
· Non-drug therapy is first-line.
· Acetaminophen may help in unrecognized pain.
· Reassess need for antipsychotics after 3 months.


March 2011


· Before initiating therapy, set pain and functional goals with the patient and document progress. Screen for opioid use disorder risk with the Opioid Risk Tool. Obtain informed consent and consider a treatment agreement.
· Use the Opioid Manager Tool.
· Take advantage of Rx monitoring programs.
· Use urine drug screening.


Osteoporosis, Vitamin D, SMBG, & Anti-Infectives

October 2010


· Consider osteoporosis fracture risk, and whether a bisphosphonate is indicated.
· There is safety and efficacy evidence for Vitamin D 800-2000 IU per day for most osteoporosis patients.
· Self monitoring of blood glucose is unnecessary if no therapy change will result.
· High dose amoxicillin can overcome Strep pneumonia resistance in acute otitis media


April 2010


· Not all abnormal nails are fungal; treat only if culture positive.
· Treat with terbinafine for 12-16 weeks (drug of choice for toenail onychomycosis).
· Mark nail at end of treatment to monitor treatment success.



October 2009


· Low dose colchicine (e.g. 1.2mg stat, then 0.6mg in one hour) can be used as initial therapy in gout and has improved GI tolerability.
· Indomethacin has never been shown to be superior to any other NSAID.
· Don't start, stop, or adjust allopurinol dosing during an acute gout attack.
· Weight loss for gout is likely more beneficial than a low-purine diet. 

Heart Failure

May 2009


· Gradually titrate ACEIs and BBs in heart failure to target doses to achieve mortality benefits. If low blood pressure, but asymptomatic, push on. Lowering diuretic dosing can help achieve target ACEI/BB dosing.
· Patients who monitor their daily weights can help prevent a hospital admission.
· Spironolactone is useful in stage 3-4 heart failure if renal function & potassium status permit.



October 2008


· Individualize glycemic control targets, considering patient and intervention factors.
· Metformin is first-line therapy, and should be continued indefinitely unless contraindicated.
· Discuss insulin use early on to gain patient buy-in for when it may be needed.
· A low dose of basal insulin at bedtime can make starting insulin safer and easier. 


August 2008


· Most patients with ADHD will respond to stimulant therapy; alternatives include atomoxetine and other off-label non-stimulants.
· A stimulant treatment agreement can help protect both patients and doctors.
· Long-acting formulations may have less stimulant misuse potential. 

Overactive Bladder

March 2008


· Start oxybutynin at 2.5mg and titrate slowly in overactive bladder. PRN dosing is useful for some.
· Second-generation anticholinergics are better tolerated and more convenient than oxybutynin, but can cost more. Efficacy differences appear to be small.
· All anticholinergics can worsen cognitive impairment, especially in older adults. 


February 2008


· All patients with irritable bowel syndrome should receive reassurance that their symptoms are not life-threatening.
· Lifestyle modification can provide more relief than medications.
· Addressing psychosocial stress can help improve IBS symptoms.
· No single drug treats all IBS symptoms. Target drug therapy to specific symptoms.



September 2007


· There are no clinically important differences between PPIs for most gastrointestinal conditions.
· Doubling the PPI dose typically does not provide additional efficacy over standard dosing.
· Periodically reassess PPI therapy - lower doses, tapering, or step-down to H2RAs may be indicated. 


March 2007


· Acne medications require weeks of therapy before benefit.
· Topical therapies should be applied to the entire affected area - not just to specific lesions.
· Adding benzoyl peroxide to topical antibiotic regimens helps prevent bacterial resistance.
· Oral isotretinoin is the most effective acne medication. 


Weight Loss

October 2006


· Lifestyle and behavioural interventions are the cornerstone of weight loss.
· Weight loss drugs provide only a modest reduction in weight (<5kg at 1 year).
· No drugs with a weight loss indication are currently covered by Saskatchewan Health or NIHB.
· When possible, choose drugs with a low potential to cause weight gain. 

Smoking Cessation

October 2006


· Success in smoking cessation is seldom seen on the first attempt.
· Pharmacotherapy roughly doubles the chance of success.
· Combining nicotine gum with the nicotine patch is reasonable to help acute cravings.
· Support, counselling, and follow-up are essential, with or without drug options.  


March 2006


· Asthma is often poorly controlled.
· Asthma action plans can help patients proactively manage their symptoms.
· It is critical for patients on long-acting beta-agonists to continue their steroid therapy.
· Inhaled corticosteroids are safe to continue in pregnancy. 



October 2005


· Optimize both drug and non-drug interventions when treating pain.
· Carefully select patients for opioid use and use a treatment agreement in all patients.
· Avoid meperidine.
· Combination opioid/acetaminophen products are easily overused.
· Initiation of opioids doesn't always mean lifelong therapy.


June 2005


· Levodopa is efficacious in Parkinson's Disease, but adverse effects are common.
· Chewing immediate-release levodopa speeds onset of action.
· Controlled-release levodopa at bedtime may be valuable in patients with early morning "off" episodes.
· Avoiding large levodopa doses helps prevent dyskinesia.


February 2005


· Reserve fluoroquinolones to prevent antimicrobial resistance to this valuable class of antibiotic.
· Ciprofloxacin has anti-pseudomonal activity, making it particularly valuable.
· If treating community-acquired pneumonia with a fluoroquinolone, ensure use of a "respiratory fluoroquinolone" (e.g. NOT ciprofloxacin). 



October 2004


· Combination therapy with an ACEI, a statin, ASA, and a beta-blocker reduces cardiovascular risk in post-MI patients. This benefit is independent of lipid levels, blood pressure readings, or presence of LV dysfunction.
· Lifestyle management (e.g. diet, exercise, lifestyle) is also beneficial to all post-MI patients. 

Intranasal Corticosteroids

January 2004


· Intranasal corticosteroids are potent and effective drugs for chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, and rhinitis.
· Proper spray technique can reduce the risk of nasal bleeding with INCSs.
· INCSs with high systemic bioavailability may affect the growth of children. 


Androgens, Topical Steroids, & AE Reporting

May 2003


· Benefits of testosterone therapy are well accepted in symptomatic patients with hypogonadism; however, there is debate on their role in elderly men with partial, age-related decreases in testosterone.
· In general, only use low potency steroids on the face.
· 51% of newly approved drugs have serious adverse effects undetected at approval.


February 2003


· Low-dose thiazide diuretics remain the cornerstone of antihypertensive therapy.
· Most patients will require 2 or more drugs to adequately control their hypertension.
· Alpha-blockers should be avoided due to their increased risk of heart failure.
· ALLHAT showed CCBs to be safe and effective antihypertensive agents. 


Hormone Replacement Therapy

September 2002


· Hormone replacement therapy has benefits, but must be weighed against known long-term risks.
· Consider lifestyle changes for vasomotor symptoms where possible.
· If using HRT, use the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time.
· Vaginal moisturizers or vaginal hormone creams for genitourinary symptoms have a low risk of adverse effects. 


May 2002


· Coxibs are not more effective than other NSAIDs.
· Coxibs have less GI-risk than other NSAIDs.
· Coxibs have similar renal risk to other NSAIDs.
· Coxibs may increase the risk of a cardiovascular event; caution is warranted. 

Lipid-Lowering Agents

February 2002


· Patients at the highest risk of a CV-event benefit the most from lipid lowering (i.e. greater effect size in secondary prevention than primary prevention).
· Statins are currently the only lipid-lowering agent with a demonstrated mortality benefit. 



October 2001


· Metformin is first-line therapy in diabetes, especially in obese patients.
· Optimal diabetes care must also emphasize control of blood pressure, lipids, and other cardiovascular risk factors.
· Combination pharmacotherapy is usually required in most patients to achieve glycemic control. 


July 2001


· Therapeutic options for glaucoma effectively lower intraocular pressure.
· Many patients have poor eyedrop instillation technique. This compromises efficacy and can increase the risk of adverse effects.

Psychotropics in the Elderly

May 2001; updated September 2011


· Older adults are at high risk of drug-induced cognitive impairment.
· Use caution with TCAs, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and indomethacin in older adults.
· Nonpharmacological therapy is first-line for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia

Acute Otitis Media

February 2001


· Acute otitis media is the most frequent bacterial infection of childhood.
· 80% of AOM cases will resolve spontaneously without antibiotics. "Watchful waiting" for 48-72 hours may be feasible for select low-risk children.
· Amoxicillin is still the drug of choice in acute otitis media. 

Community Acquired Pneumonia

January 2001


· Timely empiric treatment of community acquired pneumonia is crucial; tailor the antibiotic choice to the patient.
· Respiratory fluroquinolones are efficacious, but should be reserved to prevent resistance.
· Stepping down from IV to oral therapy when feasible facilitates earlier hospital discharge of CAP. 



September 2000


· Immunization is the most effective means of preventing and controlling the spread of influenza.
· The optimal time to immunize is October through mid-November.
· Antiviral agents in influenza are of little value if prescribed more than 48 hours after the onset of illness. 


May 2000


· Inhaled corticosteroids are the cornerstone of asthma therapy for all but the mildest cases.
· Daily or increasing use of short-acting beta-agonists is a sign to increase the steroid dose, or consider add-on therapy.
· It is critical for patients on long-acting beta-agonists to continue their steroid therapy.


January 2000


· Coxibs are not more effective than other NSAIDs.
· Coxibs have less GI-risk than other NSAIDs.
· Coxibs have similar renal risk to other NSAIDs.
· Caution is warranted with coxibs due to a lack of long-term/published studies. 

Hormonal Contraception

January 2000


· Low-dose oral contraceptives are highly effective with excellent safety.
· No single hormonal contraceptive is superior in efficacy, safety, or tolerability.
· Smoking, particularly after the age of 35, increases the risk of cardiovascular and thrombotic events in patients on hormonal contraceptives. 


Postmenopausal Pharmacotherapy

September 1999


· Long-term hormone replacement therapy carries several major benefits, but also risks. Evaluate on an individual and ongoing basis.
· Continuous estrogen replacement is appropriate for women without a uterus. Women with a uterus should receive a progestagen in addition to estrogen.

Acid Suppression

May 1999


· PPIs are generally superior to H2RAs in treating acid-related diseases.
· There are few significant differences between PPIs.
· PPIs are most effective when taken just prior to a meal.
· Ranitidine has fewer drug interactions than cimetidine.

H. pylori Eradication

March 1999


· H. pylori eradication dramatically reduces ulcer recurrences in patients with duodenal or gastric ulcers.
· 7-day triple therapies given BID are currently first-line for H. pylori eradication.
· Maintenance acid suppression therapy is not necessary following H. pylori eradication except in high risk patients. 



October 1998


· All antidepressants have similar efficacy in depression. However, there are variations in cost, adverse effects, drug interactions, contraindications, and so on.
· SSRIs are first-line over TCAs for depression due to safety and tolerability.
· Nortriptyline has fewer side effects than amitriptyline. 

Topical Steroids

May 1998


· Topical steroids have potency ranging from Group 1 (Ultra High) to Group 7 (Low).
· Higher potency agents are useful in resistant conditions and thicker skin.
· Lower potency agents are useful in young children, where long-term use is required, and on thinner skin.
· Ointments are occlusive and effective in dry and hyperkeratinized skin conditions.


April 1998


· Cardioselective beta-blockers may have improved safety and tolerability.
· Beta-blockers, unless contraindicated, are preferred agents in angina, previous myocardial infarction, and supraventricular arrhythmia.
· Carvedilol is beneficial in heart failure patients. 


Calcium Channel Blockers

December 1997


· Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are second-line to diuretics for hypertension.
· Short-acting CCBs are not recommended.
· Amlodipine may be OK in congestive heart failure (vs diltiazem and verapamil, which are contraindicated).


October 1997


· ACEIs all have similar efficacy and adverse effects.
· ACEIs are second-line to diuretics for hypertension.
· Lisinopril has cost advantages in Saskatchewan, and strong evidence of benefit.
· ARBs are alternatives when ACEIs are not tolerated.


July 1997


· NSAIDs all have similar efficacy and adverse effects.
· Ibuprofen and naproxen are often preferred NSAID choices in low-risk patients.
· Acetaminophen is first-line in osteoarthritis.
· Misoprostol is approved for prophylaxis of NSAID-induced ulcers. 

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RxFiles Academic Detailing is part of the University of Saskatchewan and our main offices are situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.