PHARMACY

FMAP extension can aid people, businesses across the board

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Once again, the Democratic Party and the Obama administration are taking point on a relief plan for long-term or recently unemployed and underemployed Americans hit hard by the recession and the still-dismal job market. But their efforts to extend the program that provides additional emergency Medicaid funding to the states could provide additional relief to pharmacies that serve Medicaid patients, too.

(THE NEWS: NACDS hails move forward on FMAP extension. For the full story, click here)

By a slim margin, the Senate voted Aug. 4 to break a filibuster on an appropriations bill that would extend the emergency funding program, and move the bill forward for a full vote. If passed by the Senate, the measure still would need final approval in both the House and Senate before heading to President Obama for his signature.

The funding program is called FMAP, which stands for federal medical assistance percentage. Created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law last year, it provided $86.6 billion in additional funding for states staggered by the recession and the resulting loss of tax revenues, allowing them to continue providing their share of health benefits to lower-income people through such programs as Medicaid.

It was a common-sense lifeline, considering the crushing burden the financial meltdown put on the states, and on tens of millions of poor and out-of-work Americans. But FMAP, as currently written, is set to expire at the end of the 2010 calendar year. And it’s become quite clear that states will continue to struggle with the aftermath of this recession — including the ongoing loss of tax revenues and drastic funding shortfalls — long after that expiration date.

For both economic and altruistic reasons, the community pharmacy industry squarely has come down on the side of extending the emergency funding program on behalf of hard-hit states and their Medicaid beneficiaries. In June, five national pharmacy and retail groups — the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, National Community Pharmacists Association, American Pharmacists Association, Food Marketing Institute and National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations — made a written plea to Senate leaders, asking them to support a six-month extension of FMAP, through June 30, 2011.

In the words of NACDS, “The Medicaid funds in this bill will help states to ensure that low-income patients maintain access to vital health care, such as medications and pharmacy services.” What’s more, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, “Anything that hinders pharmacy access is counterproductive, because when patients do not take their medications correctly, health suffers and long-term healthcare costs rise.”

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PHARMACY

Cardinal sees modest revenue gains in FY 2010

BY Jim Frederick

DUBLIN, Ohio Drug distribution and health services titan Cardinal Health on Thursday reported a modest gain in sales but slackened earnings as the company grappled with a low-inflation economy and shifts in its own business model.

For the full year, Cardinal’s sales rose 3% to $98.5 billion, but revenues in the fourth-quarter were up a more modest 0.5% versus the same period last year, to $24.5 billion. The company’s huge pharmaceutical distribution business accounted for the bulk of sales, rising 2% in fiscal 2010 to $89.8 billion but just 0.2% in the final quarter versus the same period last year, to $22.3 billion.

“I am extremely proud of the progress we made in fiscal year 2010 and the actions we took to shift our growth trajectory and position us for the coming years,” said George Barrett, Cardinal chairman and CEO.

Nevertheless, much of the momentum came from the company’s Medical segment, which grew profits by 11% for the year “while continuing to make key strategic investments,” said the chairman. By contrast, Cardinal’s massive Pharmaceutical division, beset by the lack of pricing inflation on some branded drugs, “fewer significant generic launches,” supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy and other factors, saw a 3% pullback in earnings for the year and a 17% profit decline in the fourth quarter.

Barrett acknowledged the slump in the company’s wholesale pharmaceutical segment. However, he cast the downturn in a positive light, noting that the drug distribution operation “performed considerably better than we anticipated for the full year.”

Barrett credited “execution on major initiatives, disciplined cost controls and some unplanned generic launches” for that performance. “These items largely offset the dampening effect of the actions we took to improve our strategic positioning, the negative impact from the year-over-year comparison of generic launches and the severe supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy,” he added.

“We made great strides in fiscal 2010 with key strategic priorities including our generic sales and sourcing initiatives, working capital optimization and customer-facing information technology improvements – all of which are starting to have a positive impact on the bottom line,” Barrett said. “With the recent renewals of key customers, we have stabilized our base for the next several years. In addition, our recent acquisition of Healthcare Solutions Holding will help accelerate our strategy for specialty pharmaceuticals and contribute to long-term growth for the segment.”

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Lilly to host 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA An event taking place this week aims to educate African-Americans about diabetes management.

The American Diabetes Association and drug maker Eli Lilly will put on the 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event in Atlanta Saturday. The event will feature R&B singer Angie Stone, spokeswoman for Lilly’s Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered program, free screenings and culturally relevant resources for African-Americans with diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to affect 10% of adults in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“I know from experience that living with Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong journey,” Stone said . “Today, I am successfully managing my diabetes through a series of positive lifestyle changes.”

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