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Generic use reached 84% in 2012, study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Declining use overall of healthcare services drove down spending on medicines in the United States by 3.5% per capita last year, according to a new study.

The study, by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a division of healthcare analytics firm IMS Health, showed total spending on medicines reached $325.8 billion last year, or $898 per capita, down by $33 per capita from 2011. Fewer patient visits to physician offices, fewer non-emergency admissions to hospitals and outpatient centers and a less severe flu season in early 2012 were all factors in the decline, according to the report, titled Declining Medicine Use and Costs: For Better or Worse?

In addition, however, $28.9 billion of the reduction came from expirations of patents covering branded drugs, which IMS called the "largest-ever impact" as patients moved to cheaper generic drugs.

"The cost curve for medicines was clearly bent in 2012, for better or for worse," IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics executive director Murray Aitken said. "To some extent, this is a harbinger of more efficient use of our healthcare resources, but it also reflects a decline in utilization that may be the result of under-treatment and an imbalance between prevention and care. On the eve of the most transformative period in U.S. health care, understanding the drivers of this cost-curve reduction is critical to effectively addressing the long-term implications."

Higher deductibles paid by insured patients, as well as higher co-pays and co-insurance, as well as declining prescription drug copays for most patients and new medicines to treat a large number of diseases with small or strictly defined patient populations all factored in as well, according to the report.

Per capita medication use declined by 0.1%, partly due to milder cough, cold and flu seasons in the first months of 2012. Meanwhile, use of generics has increased to 84% of all prescriptions, while price increases and lower spending on recently launched drugs have driven spending down as well. Healthcare costs remain concentrated among patients with multiple chronic conditions, cancer and other complex conditions normally treated with specialty drugs; among those with commercial insurance, 5% of those younger than 65 incurred 51% of total healthcare costs, using more than $15,684 per person.

Twenty-eight novel drugs became available in 2012, including seven drugs for rare diseases with orphan drug designations from the Food and Drug Administration and nine new cancer drugs, as well as a new oral drug for rheumatoid arthritis, a treatment for cystic fibrosis expected to significantly improve life expectancy in patients with a specific genetic mutation and an inhalable anti-psychotic.

Nearly 20% of the insured are now in a consumer-driven health plan as insured patients are paying higher deductibles and copays or co-insurance, and average out-of-pocket costs for commercially insured patients younger than 65 reached $1,146, a 30% increase from 2011 and entirely the result of higher deductibles. The average pharmacy benefit copay declined by $2 to $121 in 2012; patients filled 72% of all retail prescriptions with a copay of $10 or less.


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Powerocks announces line of lipstick, cigar-shaped portable chargers

BY Jason Owen

SHENZHEN, China — Powerocks, creators of a colorful line of portable power banks, announced today the new Super Magicstick line of light, easy-to-carry lipstick or cigar-shaped power banks to charge smartphones on the go. It is available in two versions: Super Magicstick and Classical Texture/Super Magicstick.

Designed to fit in a pocket, purse, or bag, the Super Magicstick line provides 2800 mAh of power in a compact package for two full emergency charges for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. It quickly and safely charges devices when away from a power source or outlet. Just plug Super Magicstick into a phone and it will immediately charge the phone, turning on instantly. After charging, Super Magicstick can be re-charged at home using the included USB cable. Its smart LED indicator shows remaining capacity and charging status, turning red when charging, and blue when fully charged.

In addition to charging iPhones, Blackberrys, Androids and HTC phones, Super Magicstick can also be used to charge Bluetooth headsets, cameras, GPS devices, tablets and more.

Both versions have a cylindrical lipstick or cigar shape, measuring 3.4 inches in length x .86 inches in diameter, with colors and textures to fit many styles:

  • Super Magicstick: available in silver, red, black, blue, golden, and purple;
  • Classical Texture/Super Magicstick: available in red crocodile, yellow leopard, blue leopard, grey leopard, grey paisley lace and black paisley lace textures.

Powerocks will officially introduce the Super Magicstick at the CTIA Show in Las Vegas being held May 21-23.

The Powerocks Super Magicstick and Classical Texture/Super Magicstick are available now, priced at $34.99 from www.powerocksusa.com, www.powerocks.com, www.amazon.com and other stores. Super Magicstick comes with a Micro USB/USB cable, water resistant pouch, and user manual.


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NCPA favors Medicare Prescription Drug Program Integrity and Transparency Act

BY Michael Johnsen

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Bipartisan legislation that would let pharmacists devote more time to Medicare beneficiaries and less to adjudicating claims with pharmacy benefit management firms was introduced in the U.S. Senate and won the backing of the National Community Pharmacists Association earlier this week.

"Patients trust independent community pharmacists for the expert medication counseling and other services that they provide, such as immunizations and diabetes counseling," stated Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO. "Unfortunately, these … small business owners face an increasing number of indefensible barriers to providing the level of care that their patients deserve and have come to expect. Often this is due to the unchecked authority that pharmacy benefit managers have over community pharmacies," Hoey said. "This bipartisan legislation would achieve a more balanced business relationship between PBMs and community pharmacies and thereby allow pharmacists to continue putting patients first in health care."

The Medicare Prescription Drug Program Integrity and Transparency Act (S. 867) was introduced by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan. It would focus pharmacy audits on uncovering actual fraud and abuse, bring transparency to generic drug reimbursement rates and give Medicare beneficiaries additional privacy and other protections.

"When a pharmacist gives a patient the right medication at the right time, at the right cost, it should not be a punishable offense," Hoey said. "Audits, of course, must be conducted, but they should not be exploited by middlemen at the expense of Medicare and the taxpayer," Hoey said. "This bill [will] address some of the most challenging roadblocks to pharmacists providing even better patient care. Community pharmacists should get engaged at the grassroots level and encourage their members of Congress to support this legislation."


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