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Energy and Commerce Committee passes Rx drug diversion bill

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday passed, by a voice vote in the full committee mark-up of the bill, legislation to help curb prescription drug diversion and abuse and protect patients in need of medication.  

U.S. Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; and Judy Chu, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 471, the Ensuring Patient Access to Effective Drug Enforcement Act, last month. Identical legislation introduced in the 113th Congress was passed by the U.S. House last fall.

Specifically, H.R. 471 would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to work jointly with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to assess obstacles to legitimate patient access to controlled substances, and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs.

Industry leaders, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and HDMA, applauded the move.

“HDMA is delighted that H.R. 471 has cleared another milestone toward House passage. We thank Chairman Upton, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the bill sponsors for their commitment to strengthening the relationship between pharmaceutical supply chain and regulatory stakeholders to help reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion,” stated HDMA president and CEO John Gray.

In a letter to the committee leadership ahead of Thursday’s mark-up, NACDS reiterated its support for this bipartisan legislation.

In a letter to committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., NACDS stated: “As the face of neighborhood health care, we seek to partner with policy-makers to develop and implement viable policies and strategies that empower law enforcement to protect Americans against the dangers of prescription drug diversion and abuse while maintaining legitimate patient access to needed medications.”

In the letter, NACDS emphasized the importance of policies, such as this bill that enables law enforcement to serve the public and act to address prescription drug diversion and abuse, while still maintaining patient access to medically necessary medications.

“We are pleased that the legislation would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to collaborate with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy to assess how patient access to medications could be adversely affected by federal and state law enforcement activities, and to identify how collaboration between agencies and stakeholders can benefit patients and prevent diversion and abuse of prescription drugs,” the letter stated. 
 

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Drug store loyalty program membership up 88%

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — U.S. consumers hold 3.3 billion memberships in customer loyalty programs, the 2015 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census shows, a 26% increase over the number of memberships reported in COLLOQUY’s last census study in 2013. Drug store memberships rose 88% to 268 million, the highest rate of growth of any census category other than restaurant programs (107%). And drug store activation rates rose to 66% in the 2015 census versus 50% in 2013, while other retail and credit card program activation rates were mostly flat. 
 
COLLOQUY’s biennial report on the scope of U.S. customer rewards programs, released Thursday, shows that American households hold memberships in 29 loyalty programs spread among the retail, financial services, travel and various other economic sectors, but are active in just 12 of them.
 
The corresponding household membership figures in the 2013 census were 22 and nine. Those numbers add up to a drop of two percentage points in the active membership rate, from 44% to 42%, a 4.5% decline. That marks the beginning of a trend as the active rate declined for the first time in the 2013 report. An active member generally is defined as one who earns or redeems at least once a year.
 
The 2015 loyalty census shows that specialty store loyalty memberships now total 434 million, exceeding airline frequent flyer memberships (356 million) for the first time, and placing second only to credit card reward programs, which account for 578 million memberships. Specialty retailers, such as Best Buy and The Container Store, concentrate on selling one line of goods to a particular clientele and offer narrow but deep selections in their niches.
 
In other retail sector highlights, grocery program memberships declined for the second consecutive census, with memberships dropping at twice the rate in 2015 (2%) compared with 2013 (1%). The rate of decline in fuel/convenience store programs slowed significantly to minus 3% in 2015 from minus 21% in 2013.
 
“Think of the U.S. loyalty market in terms of a crowded party where half of the party-goers are standing in the corner without mingling,” said Jeff Berry, COLLOQUY research director and census report author. “Companies and brands that understand the key touchpoints in the relationship pay attention to how best customers respond and optimize the overall experience can turn the party up so that people will join in the fun and never want to leave.”
 

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More than half of consumers need help understanding their health

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS — While the healthcare industry focuses on consumer confusion about benefits, it's the ability to understand and interpret personal health information that may be the larger issue. Although 78% of consumers say it's relatively easy to access information about their plan benefits, 53% feel it's not so easy to either understand their personal health information or understand what they need to do to maintain or improve their health, or both, according to a January 2015 HealthMine survey of 562 consumers with company-sponsored health plans. 
 
"Our ability to track and report more health data than ever before isn't necessarily helping consumers improve their health," suggested Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine. "We need to close the gap between data collection and meaningful interpretation. Consumers are calling for more support and direction in reaching health goals, and it's important for employers, payers and other health plan sponsors to help."
 
The HealthMine survey reveals that consumers want more guidance on their health than they're currently getting from health plan sponsors. For example:
 
  • 85% of people want to know if they have health risks for developing chronic conditions;
  • 37% of people don't know what cancer screenings they need to get and how often;
  • 55% want help from their healthcare plan in setting personal health goals;
  • 30% want to track their goals monthly, another 26% want daily or weekly tracking; and
  • 65% want their health plan to send them reminders about critical health actions, such as prescription refills and annual health exams.
This is consistent with previously published findings in that 71% of consumers desire help from their companies in the form of programs and guidelines for health management. Additionally, more than 75% of respondents believe an incentive level would motivate them to take action to improve their health towards personal goals or needs.
 
The survey was fielded by Survey Sampling International from Jan. 29 to 30, 2015. 
 

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