PHARMACY

Cardinal Health settles dispute with DEA over Florida distribution center

BY Michael Johnsen

DUBLIN, Ohio — Cardinal Health on Tuesday announced it had agreed to a settlement with the Drug Enforcement Agency that allows the company to bring resolution to ongoing litigation.

Cardinal Health agreed to a two-year suspension of its Lakeland, Fla., distribution center’s DEA registration to ship controlled medicines from this facility and to improve certain anti-diversion procedures. The Lakeland distribution center will remain open, and all other operations at the facility will continue. The DEA also confirmed it is planning no further administrative actions at other Cardinal Health facilities.

"This agreement allows us to put this matter behind us, and just as important, will clear the way for a more productive dialogue about how we and others in the healthcare and regulatory community can work together to prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs," Cardinal Health chairman and CEO George Barrett said.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens expands Prescription Savings Club

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD Ill. — Walgreens on Tuesday infused greater value into its Prescription Savings Club program, which now offers discounts on more than 8,000 brand-name and generic prescriptions, thanks to the inclusion of more than 700 "value-priced" generics, which retail as low as $12 for a 90-day supply.

Walgreens also offers a risk-free guarantee on its Prescription Savings Club program: if members don’t recuperate the $20 annual cost for an individual (or $35 for a family, including pets) in actual savings Walgreens will make up the difference.

“In today’s challenging economic and health care environment, Walgreens is focused on becoming a community healthcare provider to help people live well, stay well and get well, and our Prescription Savings Club is an affordable solution for millions of people who struggle to manage their prescription needs,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens president of pharmacy, health and wellness.  “Adequate prescription drug coverage is a significant issue for millions of Americans, and this program is one of the ways we’re helping people get the medications and health care services they need.”

The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club has helped improve medication adherence rates among members, the company said. Walgreens data has shown improved adherence scores of nearly 10% by Prescription Savings Club members included in a study.
 
Additional benefits of the program include a 10% discount on services at Take Care Clinics in select Walgreens stores and between a 5% and 20% discount on most immunizations. The program also is a great option for pet owners, with discounts on select pet medications that have a human equivalent therapy. Additionally, the program also offers a 10% bonus on Walgreens, W and Nice! store brand products. 

The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club program currently saves members on average $170 per year, the retail pharmacy operator said. The club is open to people of all ages who are not enrolled in a publicly funded healthcare plan.


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Pharmacy ratchets up pressure on PBMs

BY Jim Frederick

Community pharmacy’s high-stakes pushback against the powerful pharmacy benefit management lobby continues.

Last Wednesday, independent pharmacy owners rallied with lawmakers on Capitol Hill in support of several “patient-friendly” bills now before Congress. Among them: the bipartisan Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act (S. 1058), co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Okla., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. The bill, which includes provisions requiring transparency by PBMs in pharmacy audits, also has the strong backing of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

On Capitol Hill, independents also voiced support for the Preserving Our Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act (H.R.1946), introduced in the House by Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. The National Community Pharmacists Association’s CEO Doug Hoey called both legislative proposals “common-sense, bipartisan bills” that would “rein in some of the most egregious behavior of pharmacy benefit managers [and] help level contract negotiations between PBMs and pharmacies.”

On Friday, the chain pharmacy lobby again weighed into the debate over the power of PBMs, endorsing the newly enacted Pharmacy Audit Integrity Act in Alabama. NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson asserted the new law also would “ensure transparency in the PBM audit process.”

Meanwhile, retail pharmacy operators will have to be vigilant in their efforts to keep their own houses in order while they draw attention to PBM industry practices and billing methods. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General is looking at possible fraud by a relatively small proportion of community pharmacies that fill prescriptions for seniors under the Medicare Part D drug benefit program.

The OIG issued a report last Thursday under the disturbing title, “Retail Pharmacies with Questionable Part D Billing.” That prompted a quick response from Hoey, who noted that “for approximately 96% of community pharmacies the OIG report identified no ‘questionable’ billing.”

What’s more, NCPA’s top executive said, “Regarding the small percentage of pharmacies that the OIG report focuses on, it lacks sufficient detail to evaluate the medical legitimacy and appropriateness of the claims reviewed.”

Let us know what you think. Is pharmacy fraud a widespread and legitimate cause for concern by Medicare administrators and federal budget overseers? Or is much of the problem due simply to factors outside the control of pharmacies, particularly independent owner/operators, who “struggle to comply with a wide array of inconsistent oversight and auditing requirements,” in Hoey’s words?

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