PHARMACY

Connecticut AG to investigate CVS Caremark’s threats to end drug discount program

BY Antoinette Alexander

HARTFORD, Conn. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has announced an investigation of CVS Caremark’s threat to terminate a consumer discount drug program because, according to state officials, the law requires the chain to extend the same discounts to the state’s Medicaid program.

Blumenthal, in cooperation with Department of Consumer Protection commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr., has sent CVS Caremark a subpoena to explain why providing the discounts to the state Medicaid program would result in termination of its Health Savings Pass program in Connecticut and other information. The deadline for compliance is July 9.

In response to the matter, CVS Caremark said that it intends to “fully comply with all applicable legal requirements in this matter” and “will fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation.”

In a statement sent to Drug Store News, CVS Caremark said: “The CVS Health Savings Pass program was primarily developed for uninsured and underinsured individuals to make it possible for them to access certain medications through a membership program. Consumers who obtain a CVS/pharmacy Health Savings Pass for a $10 annual enrollment fee can fill a 90-day prescription for one of more than 400 common generic maintenance medications that treat conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol for $9.99 at their local CVS/pharmacy.”

“We recently informed the state of Connecticut that we would consider discontinuing the Health Savings Pass program in Connecticut if the state continued in its demand for access to Health Savings Pass pricing for the state’s Medicaid program,” the company added. “The state’s actions would alter the intent of this program and make it economically unfeasible to continue. We remain hopeful that we can resolve this matter on terms that permit us to continue to offer the program in Connecticut. However, the CVS Health Savings Pass is a voluntary membership program that is not required by any law. Information provided to members upon enrollment informs them that CVS/pharmacy may discontinue the program for any reason. If this matter cannot be resolved, we will inform in writing any Connecticut customer who enrolled in the Health Savings Pass program within the past 12 months that the program is being discontinued and that their membership fee will be refunded.”

Blumenthal said in a letter to CVS Caremark chairman and CEO Tom Ryan, that he was concerned that the company “singled out” the state. Blumenthal added that CVS Caremark’s actions are at odds with other pharmacies that have extended their discount program drug pricing to the state Medicaid program and may be inconsistent with CVS Caremark’s actions in other states.

CVS disagreed, prompting the General Assembly to approve a law in the last session clarifying the requirement. CVS responded by threatening to end its Health Savings Pass program in Connecticut, according to a statement issued by Blumenthal.

Blumenthal also is investigating whether the proposed cancellation would violate the contractual rights and other legal protections of consumers who paid to enroll in the Health Savings Pass program.

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Pfizer voluntarily withdraws Mylotarg

BY Alaric DeArment

SILVER SPRING, Md. Pfizer has withdrawn one of its cancer drugs from the market at the request of the Food and Drug Administration amid concerns about its safety and efficacy, the FDA said Monday.

The drug maker started the voluntary withdrawal of the drug Mylotarg (gemtuzumab ozogamicin), used to treat acute myeloid leukemia, following the abrupt halting of a post-marketing trial in which patients taking Mylotarg with chemotherapy showed no clinical benefit and also died at a higher rate than those taking chemotherapy alone. Wyeth, now part of Pfizer and the original developer of the drug, started the trial in 2004. The drug was approved under the FDA’s accelerated approval program in 2000 for patients aged 60 and older with AML.

“Mylotarg was granted an accelerated approval to allow patient access to what was believed to be a promising new treatment for a devastating form of cancer,” FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Oncology Drug Products director Richard Pazdur said in a statement. “However, a confirmatory clinical trial and years of post-marketing experience with the product have not shown evidence of clinical benefit in patients with AML.”

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Walmart inks deal with Lilly to offer pharmacy patients Humulin

BY Allison Cerra

INDIANAPOLIS The nation’s largest retailer has teamed up with a drug company to provide an affordable insulin option for people with diabetes.

Lilly’s Humulin will be offered by mid-September to Walmart pharmacy patients under the dual-branded name Humulin ReliOn, including 10 mL vials of Humulin R U-100, Humulin N and Humulin 70/30 formulations.

"With diabetes reaching epidemic proportions in America, it’s more important than ever for participants in the healthcare system to work together to provide solutions to help people successfully manage this condition," said Keith Johns, Lilly’s senior director for insulins in the United States. "At Lilly, we strive to provide innovative, cost-effective therapies that help patients manage their diabetes. And as the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart touches more consumers than any other retail organization in the country. This collaboration offers a unique opportunity to provide a low-cost therapy to large numbers of people affected by diabetes."

Along with Humulin ReliOn insulin, Walmart also offers $9 diabetes management products, including the ReliOn Ultima blood glucose meter, the ReliOn Ultima blood glucose test strips (20 ct) and the ReliOn A1c test (glycated hemoglobin).

 

"Our ReliOn diabetes management products offer customers access to quality, affordable products that allow our customers to save money and live better, healthier lives," said Sandy Kinsey, Walmart’s VP pharmacy merchandising, health and wellness. "With this new offering of Humulin ReliOn insulin, Walmart underscores our commitment to helping people affected by diabetes manage their healthcare needs."

 

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