PHARMACY

Companies band together to end illegal online pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — Tens of millions of Americans have bought medications online without a prescription, according to a new study.

According to research funded by the Alliance for Save Online Pharmacies and released by The Partnership at DrugFree.org, illegal online pharmacies have sold drugs to 36 million Americans.

Many independent and chain retail pharmacies operate websites and there also are reputable online pharmacies, such as Drugstore.com. However, a number of illegal online pharmacies also exist, and buying drugs from them opens consumers to the risk of taking counterfeit, adulterated or unapproved medications.

“Those who sell prescription drugs online without a valid prescription are operating illegally, undercutting the laws that were put in place to protect patients, and are thereby endangering the public health,” U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator Victoria Espinel said. “It is a real wake-up call that so many Americans have engaged in this dangerous behavior.”

At the White House Intellectual Property Health and Safety Forum on Tuesday, Espinel said 11 companies had joined to create a nonprofit group designed to target illegal online pharmacies, including American Express, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, eNom, Google, Microsoft, Neustar, Network Solutions, Yahoo! and Go Daddy.

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PHARMACY

N.Y. Medicaid program could save big through new approach

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — New York’s state Medicaid program could save $2.2 billion over 10 years by managing Medicaid pharmacy benefits more like private-sector employer plans, state employee plans and Medicare, according to a new study by healthcare policy research firm The Lewin Group.

While most health plans use third parties to increase generic utilization and directly negotiate pharmacy payments with chain drug stores and wholesalers that represent independents, Medicaid uses fee-for-service programs in which public officials help determine dispensing fees and reimbursements.

“Medicaid is one of the few pharmacy benefit programs that still relies heavily upon a fee-for-service approach,” Pharmaceutical Care Management Association president and CEO Mark Merritt said. “By operating more like Medicare and commercial market plans, the New York Medicaid program could reduce pharmacy costs, increase the use of generics and save $2.2 billion over 10 years without cutting benefits.”

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PHARMACY

Hy-Vee announces participation in Pharmacy Saver

BY Alaric DeArment

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Midwestern supermarket chain Hy-Vee will offer 366 commonly prescribed generic prescription drugs for as little as $2 to select Medicare beneficiaries through a program offered in collaboration with UnitedHealthcare, Hy-Vee said.

The chain said it joined Pharmacy Saver, which UnitedHealthcare started last year. UnitedHealthcare is the country’s largest Medicare Part D insurer, and the program is available at more than 6,000 locations throughout the country.

“Hy-Vee is always looking for ways to help our pharmacy customers save money on their prescriptions,” Hy-Vee VP pharmacy operations Bob Egeland said. “With the Pharmacy Saver program, Medicare patients don’t have to sacrifice convenience, flexibility or friendly personalized service in order to get the lowest prices on the medications they need.”

Like many retailers, Hy-Vee offers a generic discount program, whereby customers can fill 30-day prescriptions for $4 and 90-day prescriptions for $10.

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