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D.C. health department creates new pharmacy network for HIV drug-assistance program

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON — All drugs provided to HIV and AIDS patients under the District of Columbia’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program will go through a new pharmacy network that includes Walgreens, the D.C. Department of Health said.

The department said it would shift the process of administering medications through CARE Pharmacies to administering them through agreements with individual pharmacies throughout the city. The transition started Monday and will continue through the end of August, and the department said it was in the process of inviting all registered pharmacies in the district to participate in the new network, which it said would be fully operational by Sept. 1.

As of Sunday, the network included 10 pharmacies: two Walgreens pharmacies, Super Pharmacy and Medical Equipment, Sterling Care Pharmacy, Seat Pleasant Pharmacy, Pharmacare @ DC, Morgan Pharmacy, H Street Care Pharmacy & Wellness Center, Apex Care Pharmacy and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"The Department of Health has worked diligently with all relevant parties to ensure that this transition is seamless to patients in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program," D.C. Department of Health director Mohammad Akhter said. "We have done our research and look forward to being able to provide patients with increased access to services to allow them a more efficient treatment plan for their specific health needs. No client will lose access to their HIV medications because of this transition."


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Study: Diabetes drugs may be associated with increased bladder cancer risk

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — A drug commonly used to treat diabetes may be associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The researchers — who noted that Type 2 diabetics are at an increased risk of developing cancers, including a 40% increased risk of bladder cancer — conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the risk of bladder cancer among adults with Type 2 diabetes taking thiazolidinediones. The systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and observational studies involved more than 2.6 million patients. Among them, 3,643 had newly diagnosed bladder cancer.

"We observed an increased risk of bladder cancer associated with the use of thiazolidinediones," said Jeffrey Johnson of the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. "In particular, use of pioglitazone was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer based on a pooled estimate from three cohort studies involving more than 1.7 million individuals."

The researchers also looked at a possible association with rosiglitazone (another type of thiazolidinedione) but did not see an effect.

"Although the absolute risk of bladder cancer associated with pioglitazone was small, other evidence-based treatments for Type 2 diabetes may be equally effective and do not carry a risk of cancer," conclude the authors. "This study quantifies the association between pioglitazone use and bladder cancer and may help inform decisions around safer use of pioglitazone in individuals with Type 2 diabetes."


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WSJ report: Interest in narrower pharmacy networks on the rise

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — The trend toward “narrow” pharmacy networks is expected to continue, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Walgreens’ split from PBM giant Express Scripts — many of whose millions of plan members now are getting their prescriptions filled elsewhere after the two companies failed to come to terms over reimbursement rates — has opened the door for interest in networks that limit the number of drug stores available to pharmacy-benefit customers, the WSJ reported.

The WSJ said that shifts to such networks won’t necessarily happen overnight but there’s no doubt that narrow networks are getting a lot more attention today compared with prior years.

"It’s more of a discussion point than it’s been in the past," David Dross, who leads the managed-pharmacy practice at consulting firm Mercer LLC, was quoted as telling the WSJ.

Tony Perkins, senior director of investor relations at PBM SXC Health Solutions, cited a "huge spike" in requests to explore narrow networks, driven by the need to create comparisons with Express Scripts offerings, but a smaller increase so far actually using such plans, the article stated.

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