It’s easy to detect the fondness Rita Alloway, PharmD, research professor in the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, has for her home state of Tennessee. Speaking in her soft southern drawl, she warmly describes her family visits to a cottage on the Tennessee River near where she grew up. That emotional connection makes it even more special for her to be the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Service to Pharmacy Award from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Pharmacy.
The award, given out annually since 1993, is presented to an individual, organization or corporation in recognition of their service to the pharmacy profession.
"UTHSC is a very well-respected college of pharmacy as they have done several innovative things over the years,” says Alloway. "To be recognized for distinguished service is a high honor to be in the group of people who have received it before.”
"Rita is an outstanding role model, excellent clinician and we are proud to call her an alum of the UTHSC College of Pharmacy,” says Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, dean of the UTHSC College of Pharmacy, who chooses the award recipient each year.
Alloway received her PharmD from the UTHSC College of Pharmacy in 1988, and following completion of post-doctoral training, served 10 years as director of clinical pharmacy services at UT Bowld Hospital. While at UTHSC, Alloway began a pharmacy specialty residency in solid organ transplant in 1994, and five years later, she initiated a fellowship in solid organ transplant with a focus on clinical research. That program continued when she was recruited in 2000 to be the director of transplant clinical research within the UC Department of Internal Medicine where she has trained over 30 pharmacy residents and fellows in solid organ transplantation.
"We’ve established the program here where it continues to grow and evolve,” she says. "The transplant pharmacists trained here are very active within their respective transplant program and continue to make innovations in terms of clinical service both locally and nationally.”
One of those transplant pharmacists, Nicole Ejaz, PharmD, research assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation at the UC College of Medicine, says she is honored to have the opportunity to work with Alloway, who she describes as a leader in transplant pharmacy who has helped advance the field through her numerous research contributions and publications.
"Her guidance and mentorship have helped shape my career as a transplant pharmacist today,” says Ejaz. "I have learned a tremendous amount from her, both about transplant pharmacology and clinical research, and it’s rewarding to have an opportunity to work with her on innovative research in transplantation here at UC.”
Research led by Alloway was recently published
in PLOS Medicine
. It examined the efficacy of generic formulations of tacrolimus, a drug used post-transplant to lower the risk of organ rejection.
"We found there to be essentially no difference in the formulations between the generics and brand-name version in kidney and liver transplant patients,” says Alloway. "In other words, if you were on brand and switched to generic—and you take your medication as instructed—there should be no clinical consequence.”
The research, funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was a prospective, blinded, six-way crossover study in kidney and liver transplant patients, which looked at whether the two most disparate generics, based on potency, purity and dissolution ("Generic High” and "Generic Low”) are bioequivalent to the drug tacrolimus in stable transplant patients.
The findings are important, says Alloway, because while more than 70 percent of tacrolimus dispensed is generic—with no consistent negative reports—physicians and patients still have concern over the use of generics post-transplant.