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All eyes are turning toward Walgreens-ESI title bout

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Round one between Walgreens and Express Scripts may have technically been a draw, but that still means Walgreens’ appeals to benefit consultants and payers are still out there. Whatever the outcome, the Walgreens-ESI scorecard certainly has drawn plenty of eyes to a title bout that has become a very public battle for patients.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens, ESI dispute moves to arbitration following court decision. For the full story, click here.)

News of the issue certainly has reached all constituents by now. Walgreens earlier this month filed a white paper with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that caught the attention of Wall Street. And Walgreens has posted the why in its decision to leave Express Scripts’ network, along with any impact that it will or won’t have, at Ichoosewalgreens.com.

One thing is for sure: There is not going to be an overnight resolution to this. Analysts who had suggested this issue would be resolved soon after Walgreens and Express Scripts first separated from the negotiating table this past summer are now having second thoughts. Many of those analysts are now projecting that Walgreens and Express Scripts will, in fact, part ways come January.

Such being the case, the outcome of the coming round will only set the stage for next year, as that’s when the gloves are expected to really come off. Because after Jan. 1, plan sponsors will be able to actually score a win or draw in this contest. That’s when plan sponsors will best be able to measure whether their patients are better served (and cost efficiencies better realized) with one or the other — Walgreens alone or in another network, or an Express Scripts network sans one Chicago-based pharmacy.

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Navarro Discount Pharmacy expands management team

BY Antoinette Alexander

MIAMI — Navarro Discount Pharmacy, a Hispanic-owned pharmacy chain and an MBF Healthcare portfolio company, has expanded its management team by naming Luis Mier as CFO and promoting Manuel Leon to VP wholesale and OTC programs.

“With the addition of these executives to our management team, we continue to focus on implementation of our three-year expansion strategy and the overall growth of the company,” stated Juan Ortiz, CEO of the 29-store retailer. “Mier and Leon’s expertise in retail, OTC, management and operations will assist us greatly in taking Navarro to the next level."

Mier is a seasoned accounting and finance executive with more than 21 years experience in the retail and food and beverage industries. Previously, he was the corporate controller at Donald J Pliner, a luxury footwear company, where he supervised the company’s accounting, human resources, payroll, benefits administration and accounts payable departments and led the implementation of numerous accounting software and retail management systems. He has held similar positions with retailers Floors Today, Farm Stores Grocery and Pan Am International.

In his new role as VP wholesale and OTC programs, Leon is responsible for Navarro’s wholesale division, which sells product to customers in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and is one of the company’s fastest-growing businesses. Leon was promoted from the position of director of OTC plans, where he was responsible for managing Navarro’s OTC programs in partnership with its healthcare clients. He has been with Navarro for more than three years.

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Study: 95% of ODs in children under 5 were self-ingested

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — The vast majority of pharmaceutical overdoses in children that resulted in a trip to the emergency room resulted from self-ingestion, according to a study released Friday.

"We need to know the medications and ingestion circumstances that contribute most to [emergency room] visits, hospitalization and harm," stated Randall Bond, lead researcher. The authors found that 95% of ER visits resulted from self-ingestion. Prescription drugs accounted for 55% of the ER visits, 76% of hospital admissions and 71% of significant injuries. The biggest impact came from opioid-containing pain medications (e.g., oxycodone, morphine and codeine), sedative hypnotics (e.g., muscle relaxants and sleep aids) and cardiovascular medications.

"The problem of pediatric poisoning in the U.S. is getting worse, not better," Bond said. Overall, there was a 22% increase in the exposure for this age group, although the number of children in the United States under the age of 5 years increased only 8% during the study period.

The authors attributed this increase to a greater availability of, and access to, medications in the child’s home. "Prevention efforts of parents and caregivers to store medicines in locked cabinets or up and away from children continue to be crucial. However, the largest potential benefit would come from packaging design changes that reduce the quantity a child could quickly and easily access in a self-ingestion episode, like flow restrictors on liquids and one-at-a-time tablet dispensing containers," Bond suggested. He recommended such changes should be applied to both adult and pediatric products and to over-the-counter and prescription products.

Bond and colleagues from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati gathered information about 544,133 children 5 years of age and younger who had visited the emergency department because they may have been poisoned by medication. The data was gathered from all cases reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers between 2001 and 2008. In an attempt to find a focus for continued poison prevention methods, the authors organized the data according to medication type and whether the exposure was caused by the child self-ingesting the medication or by a dosing error.

The new study will soon be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

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