Understanding the Problem Physicians Have With Retail Clinics

Two articles highlight the upside and downside of retail clinics.

  • Iglehart JK. NEJM 2015; 301-3
  • Chang JE et al. NEJM 2015; 382-8

Currently, there are ~1900 retail clinics with four main ‘players:’ CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, and Target.  However, Target has recently made a deal with CVS and Walmart is expanding into retail clinics as well.  Almost all of these clinics accept private insurance and medicare; growing numbers accept medicaid too.

Retail clinics offer a limited scope of care and typically are staffed by midlevel providers (nurse practitioners or physician assistants).  In contrast, urgent cares offer more complex services and typically are staffed by physicians.


  • For consumers, the key advantages of retail clinics: lower costs with transparent pricing, convenience due to extended hours and locations, and often short wait times.


  • Potential disruption in longitudinal care (“medical home”)

What about quality?

  • “Research has not found that retail clinics deliver poor quality care, overprescribe antibiotics, or adversely impact delivery of preventive care.”

Do Retail Clinics Enhance Access?

  • Yes but these clinics are disproportionately located in areas with relatively high income.  Nevertheless, “approximately 61% of retail-clinic visits and 37% of urgent care visits involve patients without a primary care provider.”

Patient navigation:

  • “One study …showed that patients did properly self-triage, with more than 88% of retail-clinic episodes resolved in one visit. Another study showed that 2.3% of retail-clinic patients were triaged to an emergency department or physician’s office.”

Why Would Physicians Oppose These Retail Clinics?

  • While primary care organizations have raised concerns about quality and continuity of care, a basic economic issue is likely at work as well.  “The current reimbursement system renders simple acute health problems high-margin work that can offset losses from treating more complex problems.

Bottomline: Retail clinics are filling a need for many patients in terms of cost and convenience for simple acute problems.

Related blog post: AAP -Behind the Scenes (Part 1)

Leek's Marina, Grand Tetons

Leek’s Marina, Grand Tetons

Diet or drugs for cyclic vomiting syndrome

Dietary modifications are frequently recommended for migraines.  Given the overlapping features between migraines and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), dietary treatments for CVS have aimed at eliminating trigger foods.  Investigators from the UK describe a single center cohort of 21 children (2-16 years) were placed on a low-amine diet with instruction from a dietician (JPGN 2012; 54: 698-99).  16 (76%) of the children had a strong family history of migraines.  The diet was implemented for a ‘minimum of 6 to 8 weeks.’ 13 had a complete resolution of vomiting and 18 (86%) had at least a partial response.

Specific foods that were avoided included cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, pork, peas, broad beans, shellfish, yeast extract, beef extract, gravies, caffeine, and alcohol.

This small study does not prove that a low-amine diet is effective.  In fact, most of the information on a low-amine diet is derived from alternative medicine sources (eg .  Low Amine Diet | www.integrative-medicine.com.au).  Nevertheless, it is likely that a subset of patients will benefit from avoidance of trigger foods.  How to identify potential culprits is unclear.

NASPGHAN Guidelines for CVS (JPGN 2008; 47: 379):

  • Diagnostic criteria: (90% will have idiopathic CVS)

1. at least 5 attacks or 3 over 6-month interval
2. episodic, last 1 hour to 10 days & at least a week apart
3. stereotypical pattern for individual patient
4. vomiting >4 times/hr for at least 1 hour
5. healthy in between & no other attributable problem

  • PROPHYLACTIC Measures:

Avoid triggers:
fasting, excessive excitement (eg. downplay big events), sleep deprivation
foods that trigger symptoms (?chocolate, cheese, caffeine, MSG)
excessive fatigue

Assure adequate carbohydrates
-provide sugar-containing drinks & extra snacks before exertion & bedtime


Less than 5 years:
1. cyproheptadine (0.25-0.5mg/kg/day divided bid)
2. propranolol 0.25-1/kg/day –often 10mg bid or tid
contraindications: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression
keep resting heart rate >60

5 years & older
1. amitriptyline (or nortriptyline -liquid formulation) start at 0.25mg/kg qhs and increase ’til 1mg/kg/dose
check EKG before and 10 days after peak dose
2. propranolol 0.25-1/kg/day –often 10 mg bid or tid
contraindications: asthma, diabetes, heart disease, depression
keep resting heart rate >60

Alternative prophylactic treatments:
1. phenobarbital 2mg/kg qhs
2. anticonvulsants: topiramate, valproid acid, gabapentin, levetiracetam -?consult neurology

L-carnitne 50-100mg/kg/day divided bid (max 1gm tid)
Co-enzyme Q10 10mg/kg/day divided bid (max 100mg tid)


Fluids: D10NS w KCL @ 1.5 maintenance (or possibly D10 0.45NS -some children prone to hyponatremia); add TPN if no enteral intake for 3-5 days
1. ondansetron 0.3-0.4mg/kg/dose q4hours (max 20mg); alternative granisetron
Benadryl 1mg/kg/dose q6hours
Ativan 0.05-0.1mg/kg/dose q6hours
Thorazine (chlorpromazine) 0.5-1mg/kg/dose q6hrs (with benadryl)
Toradol 0.4-1mg/kg/dose q6hrs (max 30mg)
Narcotics (morphine)

May need to treat hyponatremia, hypertension, hematemesis (H2RAs & PPIs)

Also, can try Sumatriptan 20mg intranasally at onset of episode as potential abortive measure or other triptan


1. CMP, Amylase/lipase, UGI on all patients
2. If pain/hematemesis, check U/S of abd/pelvis, and EGD
3. If abnormal neuro features: (motor asymmetry, gait abnormality, severe altered mental status)
lactate, serum amino acids, urine organic acids, plasma carnitine/acylcarnitine profiles, urine ketones
MRI brain
4. If precipitated by fasting/high protein meals, or intercurrent illness= neuro w/u w/o brain MRI.

  • ALARM symptoms:

1. pain & bilious emesis
2. attacks precipitated by intercurrent illness, fasting or high protein meals
3. progressive/worsening/chronic pattern
4. abnormalities on neuro exam

**Note to blog readers –I recommend that all drug dosing be reviewed for individual patients.  The recommended doses are based on my reading of the referenced material & transcription errors are possible.

Additional references:

  • -Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 44. Use of zonisamide or levetiracetam (used at Sz dosing in 20 adults); 75% response & 20% remission.
  • -J Pediatr 2002; 141: 724. Suggests initial treatment along with UGI as most cost-effective strategy. Extensive w/u in those with persistent sx.
  • -Am J Gastro 1999; 94: 2855. response to TCAs.
  • -J Pediatr 1999; 134: 567. 82% migraine-assoc or FHx. Better response to Rx
  • NASPGHAN 2003:  postgraduate course (B Li):80% response to elavil if fhx migraines.
    “There are no controlled randomized, double-blinded trials, only open label ones. In these studies, beta-blockade (Pfau Pediatrics 97:364,1996), cyproheptadine (Anderson Pediatrics 100:977, 1997), amitriptyline (Anderson), phenobarbital (Gokhale JPGN 25:64, 1997) and erythromycin (Vanderhoof JPGN 17:387, 1993) all have approximately 70% efficacy as prophylactic agents. In Dave Fleisher’s work, he has demonstrated a 70% effect of consultation alone without pharmacologic therapy. In other words, there appears to be a striking placebo effect in this disorder that should temper any interpretation of results. In addition, I believe CVS is a heterogeneous disorder that has multiple etiologies that could allow it to respond to multiple classes of agents.”

Infection, IBD, addison’s, diabetes, renal dysfxn, metabolic errors/urea cycle d/o, FAO d/o, porphyria, CDG (glycosylation), pregnancy, ipecac/munchausen, PUDz, Giardia, pancreatitis, UPJ, malrotation/duplication, increased ICP/CNS Dz, Migraine-equivalent


1. CBC, ESR, amylase, ammonia,UA, stool heme, chem 20, HCG
2. UGI
3. giardia ag, abd U/S & DPTA, EGD, urine organic acids, plasma amino acids, carnitine, lactate, pyruvate, sinus films, head CT/MRI, toxicology, delta-aminolevulic acid/ porphobilinogen (urine), beta-HCG, serum transferrin isoelectric focusing